Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’
Have you ever used the phrase ‘good for nothing’ about someone? If you have uttered those condemning words, in what way did you mean them, and how were they received? Parents, driven to the point of frustrated despair, tell their children that they are: ‘Good for nothing!’ Employers who see inefficiency and ineptitude describe underachieving employees as: ‘Good for nothing!’ Those who consider themselves to be ‘successful’ look down upon struggling neighbours and say that they are: ‘Good for nothing!’ In so many situations and in so many ways, we fall into the trap of passing the most condemning judgement possible on those amongst whom we live. In fact, we use these destructive words so freely that we often do not give the judgements we have made a second thought.
In today’s reading Jesus uses the words: It is no good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. But, Jesus is talking about salt that has lost its taste. When Jesus speaks of something as being good for nothing, he speaks of something that cannot be turned around, something that cannot be restored to its primary purpose, something that is completely without hope. However, this desperate last resort follows Jesus first proclaiming us as being the salt of the earth. Rather than condemning humanity as being ‘Good for nothing’, Jesus is urging us to follow him and retain our ‘saltiness’, that which gives us meaning and purpose as true disciples.
Today’s reading follows on from the Beatitudes. Immediately after that great blueprint for the Christian life, Jesus warns us that we need to remain faithful to his teaching, to remain steadfast in following the path he has laid for us to follow. Jesus knows that we will stray from that path, that the potency of our faith will diminish from time to time, but he does not want us to give up hope for ourselves, or for others, because he will certainly be with us throughout those difficult times.
Jesus calls us all into a life of faithful discipleship. Jesus calls us to follow the path that will lead us into the blessed joy of heavenly happiness. Jesus knows that that path will be challenging and will see us passing through times of despair and hopelessness, times when we will say of ourselves: ‘We are good for nothing!’. But, even during those dark times, Jesus will be travelling with us, helping us to rekindle the light of hope and faith. Then, as our ‘saltiness’ is revived, he will empower us to shine as apostles in a world where so many live in hopelessness and fear.
Let us pray that, no matter how challenging our days may be, we may remain true to our calling, that our ‘saltiness’ may not lose its taste. Let us pray that, as we journey closer and closer to our Lord, we may reflect his light as we shine Christian joy and love into the dark places of this world. Let us rejoice that even when we are at our lowest, Jesus does not condemn us as ‘Good for nothing’ but holds out his hand and seeks to lead us back into his nearer presence.