February 9, 2014 – Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Those who practice stewardship know how it affects every aspect of their lives. They are also aware that Holy Scripture is filled with advice and guidance relating to the ways to live a life of stewardship. In fact, a sermon could be given every week in which stewardship could be referenced in the readings for that day.
The readings on this Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time are overflowing with stewardship language, words and phrases which exemplify stewardship as a way of life. Our first reading from the great prophetic Old Testament Book of Isaiah provides enough power for a stewardship message all by itself. “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked…” It is no mistake that these visionary words parallel the Beatitudes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, as we will see in our thoughts on today’s Gospel.
Isaiah takes it all a step farther, however, when he states “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.” By living lives of stewardship, by reaching out to those in need, by following Jesus’ admonition to “love one another” we do indeed bring light into what can be a very dark world. Isaiah reminds us at the end of the first reading that if we strive to bring light to others, “Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like mid-day.” People who give of themselves soon learn that by giving they are uplifted, and they, too, share in the love and warmth they provide.
St. Paul has a way of taking the complex and making it simple. In his letter to the Corinthians, he provides all the impetus needed to live lives of Christian stewardship. Paul says it is not a matter of great intellectual study or deep philosophical thought. It is only a case of concentrating on the crucified Jesus Christ and the power of God.
It is imperative that we view some readings in the context in which they occur. Jesus Sermon on the Mount is His longest discourse in all of Scripture. It fills three chapters in the Gospel of Matthew — 5, 6, and 7. Our Gospel reading today occurs toward the beginning of his Sermon. Immediately preceding this passage are the Beatitudes. Jesus goes directly from those to proclaiming, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt is referred to more than 40 times in Holy Scripture. In Jesus’ time there were three aspects of salt — providing taste, preserving things, and as a unit of exchange. Thus, the Lord is giving a multiple stewardship message to those hearing Him: First. you bring flavor and meaning to others by living Christian stewardship; second, you preserve the Church and the faith of others by living that way; and, finally, your lives gain great value by showing others how to live.
In addition to His salt narrative Jesus says, “You are the light of the world… your light must shine before others.” We can easily summarize the readings in a stewardship perspective: Love others, reach out to those in need, and you will enrich their lives (like salt) and bring them joy and understanding in a world which can sometimes seem dark and lonely to many (bringing light). If you do this, you will find that the spirit you provide to others will be returned to you by God, and you will also find your life brighter and more positive and more fulfilling. “Your good deeds… glorify your Heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:16)