Heschel Center KUL: What do salt, light and the city on a mountain mean to us?

Like salt, we as Christians are to give God’s flavor to the lives of others. Like light, we are to give hope to others in the darkness of everyday life. Like the city on the mountain – Jerusalem – our lives are to be a witness and lead others to God. About the tasks Jesus puts before us today. Writes biblical scholar Fr. dr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, deputy director of The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations of The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in his commentary for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

  1. A word of introduction

Jesus brings three things to our attention in Sunday’s Gospel: salt, city and light. We know these things from our daily lives. Jesus uses them to tell us something very important about our lives.

  1. Keywords

You are the salt of the earth

Salt in the time of Jesus was considered essential for life. This is true for us today as well. It adds flavor to food and preserves it. In the Jerusalem Temple, salt was used during the food offerings. In the past, the common consumption of salt signified an acknowledgment of an important agreement, called the covenant of salt before the Lord. Salt, then, is something that cannot be missing from our life in all dimensions: in the needs of daily life, in worshiping God, and in our relationships with others. Jesus also relates salt to our mission in the world, which is to give God’s flavor to our lives and those of others.

You are the light of the world

Light is needed every day. Especially when it becomes dark. In ancient times people often used olive lamps. Compared to today’s electric light, they gave a rather faint light, so they had to be exposed. Light also played an important role during Jewish holidays. Candles that were lit in the Jerusalem Temple, in synagogues, or during the Sabbath in homes brought joy and were a sign of God’s guidance. Jesus emphasizes the role of light: it is to illuminate, make visible, show the way, and be a guiding point. This is precisely the mission of Christians in the world: to show God’s ways and to be a light in the darkness of this world.

A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden

Jerusalem is a city set on a mountain, and the highest point in the city was the Temple. The Bible repeatedly describes Jerusalem as the chosen city where God wants to dwell, and which is supposed to shine a good example to other peoples and draw them to God. In the same way, Christians should lead others to God. Just as Jerusalem is a holy city, believers in Jesus are to shine with the holiness of life.

  1. Today

Jesus gives each of us the task to be salt, light and city on a mountain for the people we meet every day. Jesus is with us and we can always ask him how to do this, and ask for help. How do we want to carry out our mission in the coming week?

About the author

Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik is a doctor in Oriental Studies of the University of Oxford and doctor in Biblical Sciences and Archeology of Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. Former Spokesman of the Polish Bishops’ Conference (2015-2020). Currently director of the Office of Foreign Communication of the Polish Episcopate as well as vice director of The Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations of The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin.

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