First Reading: Is 58:7-10; Psalm: 112. R. v. 4a; Second Reading: 1Cor 2:1-5; Gospel: Mt 5:13-16
A PINCH OF SALT
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Immaculee Ilibagiza, a Rwandan-American and Tutsi by tribe was a survivor of the Rwandan genocide of 1994 that claimed the lives of over one million Rwandan, most of whom were chopped to death with machetes. In her book “Left to Tell” which narrated her horrible experience of the holocaust, she related how her family were brutally murdered during a killing spree that lasted up to three months. Immaculee and seven other women survived this massacre constricted in the bathroom of a local pastor for 91 days. Cramped in that airtight bathroom, Immaculee narrated that praying the rosary and Lord’s Prayer was instrumental to her decision to forgiving her family’s killers.
When the genocide ended, Felicien, Hutu by tribe, the man who killed Immaculee’s mother and who was well known by the Ilibagiza’s family as an upstanding member of the community was arrested and jailed. When Immaculee visited him in prison, she wasn’t quite sure if she would be able to face him. But when the jailer brought Felicien out, Immaculee looked at him in eye and said, “How could you have done this? Killing so many people, you can’t be at peace.” Felicien look confused and distressed. Immaculee tried to reach out to him but broke into tears. Felicien started to cry too. The jailer, a Tutsi and a survivor of the genocide just like Immaculee gave Immaculee permission to slap and spit on her mother’s killer but she refused and instead forgave Felicien.
The jailer was mad at Immaculee wondering why she would forgive a man who killed her mother. But Immaculee’s action will go on later to change this embittered officer. Because Immaculee later heard that the officer said regarding that experience, “I will never forget that woman.” And when the officer visited Immaculee at the United Nations office in Kigali where she was working, he said to her, “You don’t know what you did to me, when you went to the jail and forgave Felicien. I was shocked.” Immaculee served that jailer a pinch of salt.
Salt has its distinctive taste. And we don’t need so much of it to make a difference. A pinch of salt is enough to change the taste of a bowl of food. No one adds a large amount of salt to a pot of food. If we do either by intention or miscalculation, that food becomes uneatable. What this implies is that there is a strong power of influence in a pinch of salt.
When Jesus called us ‘the salt of the earth,’ he was in other words reverberating how powerful and effective we can be to the world regardless of our small percentage. And the huge difference we can make in small actions. But only the faithful followers of Christ can do this. So are we among these few faithful followers? It is important to reflect on this question in view of the fact that many of us have actually lost our saltiness.
The small actions of a few faithful Christians can actually go a long way to transform our world just like the efficacy of a pinch of salt. The statement “I forgive you” as easy as it may sound, and which can be said in a split second can have a transforming and lasting effect in the life of the forgiven and even the witnesses around. When Immaculee forgave her mother’s killer, she had no idea that that simple but hard action would have a lasting effect in the heart of the embittered jailer who only was a witness to her act of forgiveness. A transformative encounter that remained fresh in the heart of this man even after several years.
The Christian virtues are like a pinch of salt with gargantuan effect. An act of charity may look so small but we cannot imagine or contain its widespread effect to our world. What Jesus wants from us is just a pinch of salt.
The prophet Isaiah resonates in the first reading what this pinch of salt entails – To share bread with the hungry. To shelter the homeless. And to clothe the naked. These corporal works of mercy were further extended by the Church by the addition of four more works of charity – Giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the imprisoned, visiting the sick, and burying the dead. Faithfulness to these works of charity is the most effective way to add a pinch of salt to our world today. If we are missing in action regarding these works of charity, then we obviously have lost our saltiness. And of what use then are we to our world?
But leveraging on the grace of God, we know we can rise again to embrace our call to these moral demands. For only the grace of God can restore our saltiness again. So, are we found wanting in this call to works of charity? We can begin from there relying on the grace of God at work in us. As Christians, we are not called to maintain the world’s status quo. We are rather called to defy the world’s standard and to do things differently which is where our saltiness lies.
So, when we carry out works of charity, we offer a pinch of salt. When we forgive one another, we offer a pinch of salt. When we say no to discrimination and racial sentiments, we offer a pinch of salt. When instead of gossiping and defaming the good character of people we correct and pray for them, we offer a pinch of salt. When we are honest, obey traffic rules, exercise our civic responsibilities, say no to bribery, corruption, cultism, examination malpractice, rape, murder, marital infidelity, divorce, and all other sinful and evil practices, we offer a pinch of salt to our world.
Let us remember that we are useless if we lost our saltiness. Because the mark of every true Christian is that distinctive taste we bring to our world that the world cannot offer. So we can rise up today and offer to the world what the world is in dire need of – just a pinch of salt.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we acknowledge that many of us have lost our saltiness. Please, help us with you grace to rise up again and offer to our world that pinch of salt that will make a difference. Amen.