My dear husband enjoys cooking. He took over the shopping and cooking when he retired a few years before I did. When I joined him in his leisure, Mike continued to shop for groceries without benefit of my company. I have the distinct impression that he enjoys this arrangement because it allows him control over our daily menus. I refrain from complaining because Mike is a very good cook. I also admit that if it was up to me, we would rotate through the same seven rather bland meals on a weekly basis.
In an effort to appear to be helpful, I run to the store when Mike needs a few forgotten items. I wash the fruit and vegetables. I make our salads, set the table and stir a pot here and there. I occasionally pre-heat the oven and set the kitchen timer. I even place the salt and pepper shakers on the table though they would remain on their shelf if left up to me. You see, part of my husband’s cooking expertise includes seasoning our food at precise levels. While I prefer to enjoy the “natural” flavors of the things we eat, Mike prefers to enhance those natural flavors with salt. Whether he is preparing a casserole, boiling a pot of soup, scrambling an egg or broiling a steak, he sprinkles a measure of salt in the process. In an effort to cooperate, I endure the salt in those pots of soup and those other one dish meals. In an effort to compromise, Mike holds the salt on my portions of items cooked separately. In the end, we enjoy our meals together.
A few days ago, I came home to find Mike cooking in a dark kitchen. “Can I turn on the light for you?” I asked. “No. It bothers my eyes,” he answered. For some years now, a “bubble” in Mike’s retina has caused him to see wiggly lines streaming across his field of vision. Bright light enhances the lines, so he prefers dusk-like lighting. I, on the other hand, enjoy bright light. As soon as I get up in the morning, I open every shade in the house. When clouds block the sunlight or the sun begins to set, I turn on the lights. Even when visiting at various family members’ homes, I catch myself asking, “Do you mind if I turn on the lights?” In an effort to cooperate, I deal with the dim lighting until I join Mike in the kitchen to help. In an effort to compromise, Mike deals with the bright light to save my fingers from any culinary mishaps.
I share Mike’s and my salt and light preferences because Jesus used these amazing gifts to enhance his teaching. A passage from Matthew’s gospel (5:13-15) picks up just after Jesus preached the beatitudes. When Jesus spoke to the crowds, he offered these promises, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted; blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth…” Jesus listed eight conditions -which the world would view as suffering- and promised the best of God’s blessings in response to each one.
After offering these guarantees for happiness to the crowds, Jesus turned to his disciples to say, “You are the salt of the earth,” and “You are the light of the world.” Because they knew best the blessings offered to all of God’s children, Jesus challenged his closest disciples. They were to be the salt which would enrich those around them and the light which would guide those who did not yet know the road back home to God. Jesus left no uncertainty regarding how this would be accomplished when he said, “…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” Jesus knew that when they experienced the salt and light which the disciples offered, the people would take God’s message of peace and reconciliation, mercy and love to heart.
Had I been among the disciples that day, I might have wrung my hands and fretted over how I could possibly be that salt and light which the suffering masses needed so desperately. How might I, with my imperfections and frailties, reveal God’s loving ways when I was no better than the rest of humankind? In the end, I would have needed only to look into Jesus’ eyes. For there would be reflected the light of which I am so fond and the salt which my husband sprinkles so freely. In those eyes, I would have seen Jesus’ absolute faith in my ability to use my gifts.
Every day, Jesus sends out each of us with the same confidence. Whether we prefer to be salt or light, Jesus sends us out to transform this world one loving deed at a time.
©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved