Salt of the Earth

Photography © by Andy Coan

As a Catholic teen growing up in one of the most Catholic areas of the US, I never would have considered abandoning my faith.  But neither would I ever have considered getting excited about it.  Why should I?  Nobody else in my parish seemed excited.  The teens in the parish went wild at the rock concerts we attended, and the adults got excited about New Year’s Eve and Super Bowl parties.

Yet when I looked around at these same people during Sunday Mass, I saw a sea of blank faces.  So I assumed being Catholic was about denying yourself a bit of fun now so that something really bad wouldn’t happen to you later (namely, hell).  Of course, I did not want to settle for a dull life, so I paid my weekly dues at church and tried to avoid real serious sin as I grabbed for as much gusto as I could.

From the looks of things, you’d think that one of the beatitudes was “blessed be the bland.” To the contrary, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount “you are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).  Salt is spicy, not dull and boring.  It actually has the power to make insipid food tasty and to preserve food that would otherwise spoil.  Salt was so valuable in antiquity that it was often used to pay soldiers their wages.  The Latin term for salt is actually the origin of our English word “salary.”  Hence the expression “he’s worth his salt.”

Jesus is very clear that he is not paying for salt that has no flavor.  It is good for nothing but the trash heap.  This reminds me of what the he says elsewhere to a group of less than impressive Christians: because they were lukewarm rather than hot or cold, he intended to spew them out of his mouth (Rev 3:15-16).  In other words, lukewarm Christians make God sick.

This is not to say that one must be an extrovert, entertainer, or brilliant lecturer to be a successful Christian.  It’s not about personality . . . it’s about heart.  It’s about approaching your Christian life with passion rather than with a yawn.  After all, on the day of Pentecost Jesus did not rain down Prozac from heaven, but fire.  In the presence of fire, people don’t meander and mope.  They move, and move quickly.

We can’t be the light of the world unless we’re on fire.  The Christian life cannot be lived on autopilot, in robotic fashion.  That sort of existence is not living, but surviving.  And it will attract absolutely no one to Christ and the Catholic Church.

So how did I move from being a lukewarm Catholic teen to a salty, fiery one?   Simple.  A friend of mine went through a change.  She had been troubled and had gotten into trouble.  But I saw a change in her lifestyle and her countenance.  As she told me what Jesus meant to her, there was joy and peace on her face and a quiet passion in her words.  Her shining countenance got my attention.  Her “tasty” words intrigued me.  They led me to a Catholic renewal group in a nearby parish where I saw many changed lives and lots of radiant faces.  And so I joined them as they pursued a life of prayer, evangelization, and service to the poor in the inner city (Is 58:7-10).  They did their job of being salt and light.

Are you doing your job?  Are you hot or lukewarm, spiritually alive or comatose?  Here’s a test for you.  Answer honestly.  Are you excited about prayer, or is it a chore?  When you have extra time and money, how much of it do you ever invest it in spiritual growth or apostolic service?  Are you “too busy” to get to confession regularly, attend a parish mission, or get involved in serving the needy?  And finally, if it were a crime to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?


Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A) — Isaiah 58:7-10; Psalms 112:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; First Corinthians 2:1-5; Matthew 5:13-16

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.


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About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

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