Rev. Fr. Emerico Garcia, our seminary rector; father formators, deacons, and religious sisters; seminary teachers and staff; parents and seminarians of Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary; dearly beloved in Christ:
We are gathered today in thanksgiving for another year of seminary formation coming to a close. While this is the second year of the challenging formation at home and online learning set-up brought about by the pandemic, we still account for the many blessings that the Lord has showered upon us and rejoice in his saving help. In the words of the psalm, in the midst of life’s woes and distresses, through prayer and silence, we are still able to discern the face of God shining upon us. He hears us, relieves us, shows pity on us, and does wonders for us — all these bring light and gladness to our hearts. We direct our praise and gratitude to God, the source of all blessing; and to our patroness, Our Lady of Guadalupe, for her maternal care and intercession.
What do we do when we are on the receiving end of faithful, undeserved, and unconditional love? We are moved to respond in love, the best way we can. In our gospel today, our Lord Jesus Christ instructs us how we can embody this response of love to God: be salt of the earth and light of the world. What characteristics of salt and light can we emulate?
First of all, salt and light both make a difference in the world. Their presence and absence are easily noticeable. When the light is too bright or too dim, the iris of the eyes adjust. When food is too salty or too bland, we bring it to the attention of the cook. Essentially, Jesus challenges us to make a Christ-like difference in the day-to-day, not only through good words, but moreso, through “good deeds”. Like salt and light, we can preserve what is good, season life with love and values, and enlighten the path of others to holiness — in our own little ways, in our own little spheres of influence. As Jesus made an impact and dent on the world, so must his disciples.
Secondly, salt and light give of themselves to make a difference. To produce light, there ought to be some form of internal combustion, burning, or melting. For salt to diffuse its taste, it has to dissolve, disintegrate, and disappear. Moreover, to cause their effect, salt and light must be in contact with the world: with meat, fish, and food; with the surrounding darkness and competing lights. This interaction will not always be smooth and seemless. Contradiction and opposition can be encountered along the way. This can intensify the self-sacrifice needed to exude Christian flavor and light.
Thirdly, salt and light do not call attention to themselves. When you turn on the light, you do not look at the light itself, but at your surrounding that it enlightens. When you put salt, unlike fish sauce that smells and soy sauce that darkens, only the flavor it provides is discernible in the food. We are invited by Jesus to make a difference in the world, not so that we will be glorified and become the center of attention, but in order that: “they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father”.
This is what we see in the widow of Zarephath. She made a difference in the life and mission of the prophet Elijah by providing him with water and bread when the stream on which he relied dried up. During that time, life for a widow was extremely difficult because men usually work to establish the family. Even though she did not have much for her and her son, but a handful of flour and and little oil, placing them at the brink of death, she was willing to die to herself to give life, to be broken in order to be shared. This act of hers, going for broke to be salt and light for others, if you think about it, puts a spotlight not on herself, but on the provident God on which she entrusts her life.
In the same manner, this is also what we see in the widow of Joseph, our Mother Mary. She made a difference, not only to Joseph and Jesus, to Elizabeth and Zechariah, to the couple in Cana, or to the apostles in the upper room. She also impacted the entire history of salvation since she allowed the climax of God’s plan to come to fruition in and through her. Up to the present, she continues to make a difference in our lives as our Heavenly Mother. We know that Mary also sacrificed a lot and gave of herself to fulfill this mission. From the annunciation to the cross, she suffered many sorrows, piercing her heart like a sword. But in the end, she calls attention not to herself, a mere handmaid of the Lord: but to the greatness of God her savior, and always toward her Son.
In seminary formation, you are being prepared to be salt of the earth and light of the world. True to your experience, you are constantly asked to dissolve, melt, and die to yourselves for a better disciple of Jesus to be formed. As you move on to the next level of formation, in the four pillars of seminary formation — community, academics, intellectual, and pastoral — offer your whole self to be used by God for the fulfillment of his plans. Avoid being dimmed out light and tasteless salt. Persevere in your formation.
As you do all these, recall the story of the widow of Zarephath who did not run out of flour and oil for a year. For God cannot be outdone in generosity. And when there comes the time when it is too painful and difficult to be salt and light for others, run to Our Lady of Guadalupe who repeatedly comforts us and says: “Do not be afraid. Am I not here who am your mother?”
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.