Monday, July 1, 2013

Salt, Leaven, And Light

As we are all well-aware, unless we are a hermit, there is much political debate going on concerning certain "hot-button" issues.  The things going on in Texas right now are especially engrossing.  And the Catholic Church as an institution and Catholics as individuals have thrown themselves into the fray.  I'm not saying that they shouldn't, but the frantic attitude of some of them disturbs me a little bit.  It's like they think the only way to stop Western Civilization from collapsing is through their political activity. 

Again, I'm not saying political activity by Catholics -- or by anybody else -- is wrong.  But, watching the drama swirling about me has led me to contemplate a few things about which Jesus spoke --   especially his words telling us that we should be "salt," "leaven," and "light" in the world.

As I think about these three things, I am struck by their characteristics, especially in the way Our Lord uses His imagery.  And this blog post summarizes my ponderings.  Take it or leave it.  As you wish.

Salt.  It enhances the flavor of our food.  But, we use it sparingly.  Accidentally put too much into your recipe and said recipe is ruined.  An over-abundance of this wonderful substance doesn't enhance -- but totally masks -- the wonderful flavors of many of our favorite foods.  And I think about this when I think about Catholic political action.  If it is too heavy-handed, it doesn't work.  We are called to be a gentle presence.  Subtle.  Like salt, when used properly.  Maybe overwhelming people with our Catholicism is like putting way too much salt in our chocolate chip cookies.  It only makes people gag.

Leaven.  Like salt, it is used sparingly in cooking.  But, just a small amount makes the dough rise dramatically.  Maybe we should think about this in our interaction with others, in our political activity.  We don't need to overwhelm everybody with our "correctness."  We don't need to act like steamrollers.  We don't need to scream and shout and flail.  We can be like the yeast in the bread -- mixed, almost imperceptively, throughout the dough, but having a powerful effect.  What type of an effect?  A rising, a lifting, an enhancing of the whole body of the dough.  The dough is kept intact and whole, growing larger and lighter.  Not imploding or exploding our collapsing.

Light.  Jesus speaks of a lamp on a lampstand.  When I reflect on this image, I think of a dark home sitting on a hill in the night.  The lamp is lit.  What type of light does it give off?  Is it the light of the high-beams of an oncoming mack truck, blinding you as you try to drive on a winding road at night?  Is it the glare of fluorescent lights in an impersonal office?  No.  It is a warm, inviting light.  It is the kind of light that says, "Come in and rest a while.  Have a cup of tea and a cookie and a chat.  I know you are weary.  Let me offer you my hospitality."  It is also the kind of light that says, "In my conversation with you, I will listen to your concerns.  I will hear your heart.  I will respect you and care for you."  Maybe we should think about being this kind of light when we deal with those on "the other side of the aisle."

Why?  Because "those on the other side of the aisle" are not evil people.  They have good intentions and good hearts and good will.  They are honest and hard-working and intelligent.  They would help you out if you were in a jam.  Maybe they even have something to teach you.  And we need to recognize these things, or we are going to tear our country, our culture, our civilization -- and each other -- apart.  And that doesn't seem very "Catholic" to me.

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