“nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine.”
– Pliny (First century Roman naturalist and writer)
The readings for this Sunday can be found here.
The Gospel this Sunday is rich on many levels. For a scripture scholar the Gospel themes of salt and light are metaphors repeated in Mark and Luke, and that light and darkness are also repeating themes throughout the Gospel of Matthew. For historians the Gospel may remind them that salt was used in Biblical times as a spice and a preservative, not unlike how we use it today. Those levels of understanding stand on the surface or drill down deeper than we need to on this Sunday. In this post we are going to focus on how we can take the Gospel message and live it every day.
And if God is the source of love, the only way I can worship God is by loving wastefully. Not setting barriers and counting costs and that sort of thing. Not saying, “Do you deserve it or not?” But loving wastefully. Therefore to be a follower of this God means you have to try to enhance the love that’s available in this world.
–John Shelby Spong
Every day we go out into the world. Our world leads us to our families and friends, our work, our school, our volunteer services, and all the places we interact with other people. The Gospel tells us today that we have a duty to all those people we touch every day. Let them see your good deeds but perform them with humility. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Vince Lombardi, “when you get to the end zone, act like you’ve been there before.”
Sometimes it is easier to explain the ways we can love wastefully, as the Gospel suggests, with a story. The story I have in this post is true and comes from Butte Montana. As you hear the story keep in the back of your mind the Gospel message and think about the good deed opportunities you have in your life.
“An unmarried teacher at a Roman Catholic middle school in Montana has been fired after getting pregnant, the Diocese of Helena confirmed.” Here we have a young woman teaching at a Catholic school who had been having sexual relations outside of wedlock and it was discovered because she became pregnant. The school, for their part, acted in a way they felt was justified based on Catholic moral teaching. The administration is quoted as saying she was an excellent teacher but that she violated her contract that requires her to live a Catholic lifestyle.
There you have it, surfers, the story for our homily today. It certainly seems to me that we now have a young woman who is not married and will soon have a child who is without a source of income. As an excellent teacher she will likely land on her feet and find work teaching at a government school, but how do the actions of the school align with the Gospel message?
I don’t want to seem harsh on the school administration because I am sure they would have kept the teacher, but they do run a business. Let me explain the business; parents send their children to the school to receive a sound moral foundation and if parents perceive a lack of moral fortitude on behalf of the school the admission levels will drop. The decision for the school can be seen as purely economic. As a parent of Catholic school children I feel some sense of responsibility for the environment where the school feels they cannot offer the teacher forgiveness. The good deed should have been forgiveness, but we parents setup the environment where this was not an option for the school.
You know from your own experience that if the school made the decision to keep an unmarried pregnant woman on as a teacher the community would talk. Parents would complain to the Bishop and some vocal minority would pull their children from the school. If this sounds like you, please read the Gospel once again.
If there is one action you take away from this homily it should be to perform the good deed of loving wastefully. Think about how you can bring people closer to God knowing that the ripple effect touches more lives than those you interact with daily. That is the message of the Gospel and the challenge of being Christian.