Jesus said that He is the Light of the world. He also stated that we are called to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. (See Mt. Chap 5)
Pope Saint John Paul II wrote a document for the Laity, CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (December 30, 1988), a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, meaning the Laity Faithful to Christ. The whole of this document centers around the call of lay people to be engaged in the sanctification of the world. The laity is called to accept the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount to be both light and salt. Salt gives flavor and preserves from corruption. Light casts out not only shadows, but darkness.
Over the past few generations, in most of the world, there has been a lack of solid catechesis. The role of a catechist is indispensable in the development of a healthy Parish. In fact, the efficacy of the Sacraments depends in large part upon the solid teaching of the priests, but also the supporting assistance of a lay catechetical team. The more adequate the formation of the catechists—for children, teens, and adults, the more efficacious will be the reception of the Sacraments, as well as perseverance in living out the faith.
What are some tools or methods or tactics that we should utilize to become the salt of the earth and the light of the world? In a more wide sense of the word, all followers of Christ can teach in one form or another.
In fact, parents are called to be the first and primary educators of their children. However, Godparents must support the parents in the spiritual and moral formation of their godchildren. From Baptism, we are called to be priest, prophet and king. The role of the Prophet is that of preaching the Gospel truth by both word and example.
Of paramount importance, the priest has a double and indispensable role: that of praying to God for the people entrusted to his care. But the priest must also be the primary teacher of the flock entrusted to his care.
That said, the following are some concrete suggestions on how all of us can become the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and to exercise our teaching role in the best way possible. Perhaps the salvation of immortal souls depends upon our being the light pointing them to Jesus who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, as well as the Light of the world.
1. FIRST COME AND THEN GO. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen coined this pithy phrase related to becoming true disciples of Jesus the Lord—FIRST COME AND THEN GO. What the saintly Bishop meant by this catchy one-liner is that for us to go out to preach, and teach, and convert souls, we must first come to Christ. We must spend time with Jesus. We must form a deep Friendship with Jesus. Recently, Pope Francis, talking on apostolic zeal in his General Audience (May 17, 2023), presented Saint Francis Xavier as a model for apostolic zeal. Perhaps the greatest modern missionary saint, Xavier encountered many obstacles in India, Indonesia and Japan. Pope Francis pointed out that the key to Xavier’s success was the deep union and friendship that Xavier had with Jesus. This being the case, if we sincerely desire to bring the wandering and lost sheep home to the arms of the Good Shepherd, we have to first experience a deep union with the Good Shepherd. If you like, for us to be a good shepherd to our sheep, we must be a good sheep of the Good Shepherd.
2. YOU CAN’T GIVE WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE: STUDY! It is a sad but real fact that many adult Catholics in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s or beyond, had their last trace of religious formation when they were teenagers or even children. Many of these adults have College degrees and are well-equipped professionals in their prospective fields. However, their Christian-Catholic spiritual and moral formation came to a screeching halt at a young age. Physically and intellectually their formation is complete, but their spiritual formation was stunted at a juvenile level at best. Professionals, moreover, are always keeping up to date with seminars, classes of ongoing formation, and even tests to be up to speed in their profession. If not they could be dismissed from their job as incompetent. In a very real sense, should we not be Professional Catholics? By this is meant, should we not be constantly on the pathway of perfection in our study, knowledge and love for Jesus, our Supreme Master, and our Catholic Faith? Even though this is embarrassing to say, how often have we bumped into trained Missionaries from Religious Sects who have more knowledge of their faith and enthusiasm to transmit it than we do??? As Catholics we have the fullness of the Truth and the fullness of the Faith, but all too often we are asleep. Whereas, the Religious Sects preach erroneous doctrines but with fire and enthusiasm that can blow us out of the water!!! May the Lord help us! To conclude, let us make a concerted effort to study our faith seriously, methodically, orderly and systematically. One last suggestion: Study the Catechism of The Catholic Church!!! If we can master the major concepts in the CCC then we have a solid foundation on which to build a sturdy spiritual edifice.
3. SPIRITUAL DIRECTION. One of my biggest fears as a driver has always been the dangerous blind spot. We all have spiritual, moral, and catechetical blind spots. Actually, there are three visions of ourselves: the way others see us (not fully correct); the way we see ourselves (blurry and indistinct); and God’s vision of us which is always correct! One of the benefits of competent, methodical, and efficacious Spiritual Direction is that through the help of a spiritual guide we are able to perceive ourselves with greater honesty and clarity. Saint John of the Cross stated, tongue in cheek: “He who has himself as a guide, has a dummy as a disciple.” This Mystical Doctor of the Church was basically asserting the fact that we are the worst judge of ourselves. We all have blind spots and a spiritual Guide can help us connect with Jesus, who is both the Master and the Light of the world.
4. READ THE SIGNS OF THE TIME. One of the key concepts that has surfaced from the Second Vatican Council is the dire necessity to be able to read the signs of the time. By these classical words from the Council is meant that as followers of Christ we must be aware of what is going on around us in the world. We have to be keenly aware of the social and political milieu. The moral problems that are rocking the Bark of Peter must be ascertained with great clarity, addressed with intelligence, and resolved with concrete steps of action. To be blunt and to the point, presently we must address attacks against human life from conception to the last moments of life. Moral attacks against the family are rampant. A well-educated and articulate Catholic must respond with answers on how to defend the family, which is not only the Domestic Church, but also the basic building block of society. The whirlwind of the sexual identity crisis must be addressed so as to save both teens and children from wrong choices that could have catastrophic consequences in their lives. By uniting prayer, study, and proper spiritual direction with an astute awareness of the social, political, and academic milieu, we can arrive at a point where we can truly and honestly read the signs of the time and respond responsibly according to God’s law.
5. DROP THE NETS AND REAP THE ABUNDANT HARVEST. Finally, each and every one of us through prayer should step back and look at our own concrete living situation. We should look objectively at where God has placed us, then drop the nets and reap the harvest where God has placed us. For many lay people absorbed in temporal realities, the family is the first and foremost proximate missionary field for the apostolate. We should beg the Lord and His Holy Spirit for the grace to see when, where, and what method we can use to draw family members closer to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Then work at it! If it is not possible to evangelize by word, then do so by the example of the way we live and work. Punctuality, honesty, competence, and hard-work with a smile on our face could be the most efficacious means to drop the nets or reap the harvest. Finally, there may be a friend, relative, or colleague who manifests openness to God; time to drop the net for a big catch. In a real sense, we should all have a daring desire to talk about the Lord Jesus and invite a wandering and lost soul to meet the Lord. And especially to pray for the many who are lost and possibly on the precipice of losing their immortal souls for all eternity! Every soul was redeemed and saved by the Precious Blood that Jesus shed on the cross that Good Friday on Mount Calvary. Ultimately it is up to each person to accept or reject Jesus’ offer of salvation. But let us not fail to do our part to pray and work for the salvation of souls for all eternity!
In conclusion, as followers of Jesus, the Light of the World, we are challenged to be both light and salt. The harvest is rich, and the laborers are all too few. Let us all, through the intercession of Mary, beg for the grace to work assiduously on our own permanent formation so as to participate more effectively in hauling in an abundant catch of fish, in reaping an enormous harvest to place in the barns of Heaven, for all eternity.