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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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In the biblical period clay ovens were a common fixture next to some houses along the roadside, (some of which remain even to this day). And since villagers were often members of a very large, extended family, these common ovens were family ovens. The common fuel for the oven then was something more plentiful than wood- camel or donkey manure. They collect these, usually mix them with salt, and mold it into patties to be left in the sun to dry, one of the duties each young girl in the family has to learn. A slab of salt was placed at the base of the oven and upon it the salted dung patty. (Such dung patties are still used as fuel today in some Middle Eastern and third-world countries).

Salt, “halas” ( ἅλας ), has catalytic properties which cause the dung to burn. Eventually, the salt slab loses its catalytic ability and becomes useless. No wonder Jesus continued his discourse by saying that it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot, (Mt 5:13, at least providing a sure footing in a muddy road). Another subtlety in the remark of Jesus that should not be missed is that in the Aramaic and Hebrew languages he spoke, the same word both means “earth” and “clay-oven”.

In other words, Jesus is saying: You, my disciples, are salt, that is a catalyst for earth (oven). To be salt for the earth-oven is to start fires and make things burn. And if they do this they will also be the “light of the world ” (Mt 5:14), two images so masterfully joined by a clever and imaginative teacher. Aside from its catalytic character, in relation to food, salt preserves and gives it flavor, while light serves as a warning and guide along the way. Salt and light, from the literal to metaphorical sense, were combined by Jesus, concerning the wholesome influence of his disciples in a sinful world (Mt 5:13; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34; Col 4:6).

Salt and light, by nature, are something to be used, not to keep for oneself but to give to others. As Pope Francis puts it: “It’s curious, both salt and light are for others, not for oneself: salt does not give flavor to itself; light does not illuminate itself”, (Wednesday catechesis June 7, 2016). We are therefore urged to give of ourselves, to give flavor to the lives of others, to illuminate them, and give meaning to every aspect of their lives with the message of the Gospel.

May we all strive to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world as Jesus calls us all to be. Amen.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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