Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: IS 58:7-10; PS 112:4-9; 1COR 2:1-5; MT 5:13-16
"With just a few more grains of salt, Nicholas' dish would've been as good as Nina's."
"Wait a minute, what does it mean that we are sitting here in the final challenge and we're still saying, 'Nicholas' dish needed a little more salt.' This is basic cooking 101!"
"It certainly would've made his dish infinitely better."
The above conversation is from the discriminating judging panel of the American culinary reality competition, "Top Chef." The dish in question is a complex recipe of three different kinds of fresh fish served three different ways: Confit of Yellowfin Tuna, Charred Pampano and Butter-Roasted Bass, fastidiously arranged on a sumptuous base of Shrimp Consommé. The creator of the beautiful plate of food is Chef Nicholas, a French-trained executive chef from Massachusetts, who, despite his formidable cooking skills, commits the same error over and over again: under-seasoning.
Not many of us can claim to have the cultivated palate of Michelin-starred chefs who know the difference a few missing grains of salt can have on a dish. But we all know the difference between food that is flavorful and food that is bland.
"You are the salt of the earth," Jesus says in Matthew 5:13-16, "but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?" Just as salt makes or breaks a dish, our active leadership and participation in the ethics of the Reign of God is that key ingredient that makes or breaks the promotion of fuller human flourishing in the world. Through ministries that help bring about greater justice, peace, and eco-human liberation, we indeed make the world taste and see the goodness of the God of the Reign. From this "reign-focus," it makes metaphorical sense when Jesus spells out that salt that has lost its taste won't be good for anything.
It is enlightening that the Beatitudes precede today's reading as they form part of the recipe for our role in bringing the Reign of God closer to home. We can image the blessings - Blessed are the poor... Blessed are those who mourn... Blessed are the meek... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness..." - as entries in a recipe that cue us to add a dash of salt. When we season each of the blessings, they have a greater chance of coming to fruition. We help bring out the depth and fullness of their flavors.
I could never image God as head judge of a perfectionist "Top Chef" panel that scrutinizes each grain of salt and gives a verdict as to whether we win the final challenge or not. One thing's for sure though, a few more grains of salt in our Christian witness would make our dish taste infinitely better.
Antonio Sison, CPPS
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
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