This Sunday we read the second installment of the Sermon on the Mount. Between the first section, the Beatitudes, and specific applications of these new commandments, Jesus first asks his disciples to be “salt” and to be “light” in the world. This is both a wonderful encouragement and a demanding challenge. It is another reminder that we can’t just be disciples of a passive law, but disciples who actively attempt to transform the world.
The gospel is paired with an amazing first reading from the prophet Isaiah, who was the “go-to” prophet for Jesus, and the foundation of his preaching. Isaiah reminds us how to be the salt and the light in the world: “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own… If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”
I suppose no one would deny these are interesting times, difficult to navigate. This first reading becomes a compass to give us direction—regardless of our political or ideological leanings. Peace and security are everyone’s concern. The quote from Isaiah brings to mind another from a modern prophet. Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace, work for justice.” It is the demanding unpacking of the Beatitude that calls disciples to be peacemakers who are hungry and thirsty for justice.