Bacon, Chocolate, & Discipleship

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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Salt and light. It’s not that difficult to see where this is going. The passage from Matthew’s gospel has Jesus teaching his disciples the importance of the role of the Christian as an active participant in God’s wonderful plan of salvation, and as an intentional ambassador or bearer of God’s message of healing and reconciliation to the world. He uses the images of salt and light to illustrate his point.

Salt is necessary for life. Sodium chloride or common table salt is the most of any salts in our bodies. It makes up about 0.4% of the body’s weight, in about the same concentration as seawater. Since we eliminate salt in sweat and tears, the body has to replenish its supply constantly. I doubt many of Jesus’ listeners knew that when he spoke about salt. Maybe we knew that. And we are aware that salt is a most important ingredient in anything and everything we eat. That’s why snack foods are so tempting and delicious! Who could eat just one potato chip? Can you imagine popcorn without salt? People would rise in revolt if restaurants took away their salt and pepper shakers. Look at the nutrition content of the food you eat, and you will notice that everything you like has salt, tons and tons of it. Salt is also a preservative. Now salt is not only necessary for life. It also enhances and adds flavor to life. You can choose to do without it, like art on your wall or parsley or fuzzy dice. But with it, life is more inviting, more exciting, more enjoyable. Salt is certainly more important than art or parsley or fuzzy dice. So why deprive yourself needlessly of something that used in moderation can only enhance your life?

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The light of a lamp in any room allows us to see objects we would otherwise collide with or trip over. Adequate lighting prevents accidents and injuries. Light further allows us to undertake tasks that would present challenges if not be nearly impossible to accomplish in the dark. We are able to tell colors and sizes and shapes of objects. We can find things we need. We can use our abilities and interact with our surroundings. And where darkness has power to bring all activity to a screeching halt, light enables us to function beyond simple survival, so we can enjoy the blessings of life, and experience beauty and meaning beyond what our senses perceive.

Jesus wanted to expand his listeners’ understanding of their role as his disciples by using the analogies of salt and light, stretching their imagination beyond the tangible and measurable into the possible and the mystical. So when we hear him say “You are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world,” we hear Jesus inviting us away from our couch-potato complacency into the realm of intentional and passionate Christian witness. Salt is not meant to go stale; light is not meant to be hidden. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.

So I thought I’d try something creative and relatable knowing any analogy will easily fall short at some point. Salt and light. What could we speak of instead of salt and light? Salt enhances and adds flavor to life. Light enables vision and the enjoyment of beauty.

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You are the bacon of the earth. What do you think? You are the chocolate of the earth. I see many fans of bacon and chocolate here. I know it doesn’t sound as exalted as salt. But after further consideration, I have decided that we can live long, fruitful, and happy lives without bacon or chocolate, but who in their right mind would want that? Bacon and chocolate just make life more inviting, more exciting, more enjoyable. Filet mignon with bacon, why not? Spaghetti carbonara is not the same without it. And breakfast without bacon, possible, but why? You don’t need bacon bits in your salad, but what’s to stop you now? Asparagus wrapped in bacon, scallops wrapped in bacon, bacon on your French fries, bacon in your BLT, bacon in your sweet potato salad. Even artichokes and Brussels sprouts, and probably Lima beans, become just a little more appetizing with bacon! And chocolate? What isn’t made better with chocolate? It can go in cake. It can go in cookies. It can go in muffins. It can go straight in your mouth. And if you want to live an even fuller life, and I say this with a word of caution, you can have chocolate covered bacon and pancakes for breakfast!

You are the public radio of the world. Some among you may not be public radio fans. But public radio opens my mind to interesting and unfamiliar worlds—the world of artists, musicians, philosophers, religious thinkers, and ordinary women and men, as well as law enforcement at the southern border, cattle ranchers on the western plains, retirees in communities around the gulf, inner city families in crime riddled population centers, farmers in the lush California valleys, entrepreneurs, victims of gun violence, death row inmates, Olympic athletes, and persons with disabilities. It would be even better if they didn’t interrupt their regularly scheduled programming to conduct a whole week, sometimes two weeks, of on-air fundraising. But the information I get challenges me to see life’s blessings in a new light, even to force me to seek out the less fortunate and the marginalized, maybe to live my life with greater purpose and focus.

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You are the internet of the world. More and more, the internet helps to expand my horizons, giving me access to vast treasures of art, music, and literature from the comfort of my desk, enabling medical care for remote and isolated communities, bringing local concerns and challenges to the global community’s attention. Some people may only use the internet for Facebook or online gaming or on-demand TV programming. Their loss. It’s like having light in a dark room just so you can rearrange your sock drawer. It’s no one’s fault but your own that you miss out on so much.

So you tell me. You are the bacon and chocolate of the earth. You are the public radio and the internet of the world. Recall the point Jesus was trying to make about how we his disciples contribute to the world around us. Jesus invites us away from our couch-potato complacency into the realm of intentional and passionate Christian witness. Salt should not go stale; light should not be hidden. If we are serious about discipleship, doing nothing is not an option. You are bacon. You are chocolate. You are public radio. You are the internet. But above all … You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Do what salt does. Do what light does. Be a better Christian than a bag of rocks.

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

Rolo B Castillo © 2023

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