“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
A student of mine asked me a question recently: “How can we sinners bring the saving Gospel to a world like ours that has become deaf to the Gospel and refuses to make use of right reasoning?” I could sense the near-hopeless tone in his question. He was feeling small and inadequate in the daunting task of living and proclaiming the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that has grown obstinate, indifferent, and even intolerant of the demands of the Gospel.
St. Paul knew very well that feeling of being inadequate in his ministry. He was accused of lacking the necessary wisdom, skills, and rhetoric of other elitist preachers. He confessed his fears and weaknesses as he proclaimed the Gospel to them, “I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom…I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling.”
But he never lost his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” In the face of such personal inadequacies and criticism from the Corinthians, he held on tenaciously to his faith in Jesus because this faith is the very power of God in his life, “I came to you with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God” (1Cor 2:1-5).
No matter how inadequate we may feel in the face of challenges and our own poverty as Jesus’ disciples, we must never lose our faith in Jesus Christ because this faith is God’s most powerful gift to us. Remember that “Christ dwells in our hearts through faith.” (Eph 3:17) Thus our faith in Him has the power to prevail over our inadequacies and whatever this world may throw at us as His disciples. St. John affirms it in these words, “This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.” (1Jn 5:4) Believing in the crucified and risen Christ, we experience within us the same power that raised Him from the dead. Nothing in this world can prevail over the power that is ours from faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus asks us to be the “salt of the earth,” and the “light of the world,” He is not asking us to be or do something without the gift of faith in Him. Without a living faith in Him, we cannot be the salt of the earth or the light of the world. He who has come to “cast fire upon this earth” (Lk 12:49) intends to do so in and through our faith-filled hearts. He is the one who instills joyful hope in us because He has “overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). He is the only salt and light of this world, living and acting within us when we are living in faith.
Without faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot be transformed by Him and we cannot transform our world. We will instead be corrupted and “evangelized” by the spirit of this world. Without this faith in Him, we cannot love and serve God all the time, but we will begin to look for something for ourselves in return. We also cannot do good to others all the time because our selfishness will dominate us. Without faith in Jesus Christ, we cannot overcome the many challenges and struggles that are in this world. Without a deep faith in Him, we cannot appreciate the role of pain and suffering in the mission of the Church to bring souls to Him. When faith in Him is lacking, we cannot appreciate the value of the human soul redeemed by His blood. Lastly, we cannot bring others to know and love God when our faith in Him is lacking.
Jesus has a double invitation for us in Mt 5:13-16. Firstly, when He asked us not to lose our saltiness, He was asking us not to lose our faith in Him for any reason. He asks us to hold on to the gift of faith we have received in baptism even in the face of personal suffering, sin, weakness, failures, temptations, persecutions, rejection, losses, etc.
Secondly, when He asked that “our light shine before others so that they may see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father,” He was asking us to make use of our faith well for the glory of God and the good of others. Jesus is calling us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world by not losing our faith in Him but using that faith well. We become tasteless salt and useless lamps when our faith in Him dwindles.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the spirit of the world is a very strong, aggressive, and pernicious spirit. We have no chance to bring the fullness of the Gospel to this world and be faithful to it too without cultivating a deep faith in Christ. The many scandals and heterodox teaching in the Church, and the abandoning of the faith by many, are painful reminders of what happens when we try to engage this world without being grounded in our faith in Jesus Christ.
Let us turn to Mary at these challenging times. Didn’t she also feel so small in the face of her challenging vocation when she asked, “How can this be since I have no relations with a man?” But she believed and held on to the words of the angel assuring her of the power of faith in Jesus, “With God, all things are possible.”(Lk 1:26-38) She believed then and she never lost her faith in Jesus Christ or in His mission. On the contrary, she continued to grow in this faith till the dark moments of Calvary and beyond. May she help us too to hold on to our faith at this time.
Let us also receive the Eucharist regularly. No matter the challenges we are facing to live and spread the Gospel today, Jesus, the “author and perfector of our faith,”(Heb 12:2) comes to abide in us and renew our faith by His power in each Eucharist. Let us never lose this most powerful gift of faith but use it well so that He can make us effective and hopeful salt of the earth and light of the world.
Glory to Jesus! Honor to Mary!