18 Nov 2021

389 Port Hacking Road, Caringbah

Salt and Light—Mt 5:13-16

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

  • Hon. Scott Morrison, Prime Minister of Australia, whose commonwealth government gave so generously to assist in providing all these beautiful new facilities we bless and open today and who represents in a sense all the levels of government that contribute to our school systems, schools and individual students
  • Mr Tony Farley, Executive Director, Sydney Catholic Schools, with other directors and staff
  • Mr Peter Buxton, Principal of De La Salle College, with principals from all the surrounding schools, and with his staff and parent reps
  • Fr John Greig, Dean, Fr Moises Tapia, Assistant Priest of this parish, Fr James McCarthy, and the De la Salle brothers;
  • Above all, you young men whom all these buildings, people and activities are for; and friends all:

In Jesus’ time, salt was a rather special commodity. It was used in worship as a symbol of the covenant between God and humanity. It was used as a disinfectant. And it was used in the kitchen: as a preservative, a flavouring, and a flavour enhancer in those things in which it is dispersed rather than concentrated. On the other hand, too much salt, or foul-tasting salt contaminated by other minerals, or salt in the wrong food or place—what Jesus calls today ‘good-for-nothing salt’—could ruin Mum’s stew or Dad’s best farmland. So when Jesus begins His great Sermon on the Mount by telling us to be salty, which of these several meanings did He have in mind? All of them, I suspect.

As the Sermon goes on, Jesus teaches us about true prayer and worship, and the role of Christians in disinfecting the world of sin and the devil, making our society and each human heart places of safety, beauty and goodness.

So Christians sanctify, like salt. But they also preserve like salt. They are to uphold the sanctity and dignity of every human life; to safeguard and nurture those entrusted to their care, their community and the world around them; to conserve the best of their heritage and traditions; to apply and pass on Christ’s teachings. So, Jesus declares He has come not to abolish the laws and traditions of the elders but to fulfil them, and that a good teacher is like a householder who displays things both new and old.

Salt preserves. But Christians don’t just preserve their Faith, storing it in barrels like salted cod. No, salt also enhances. Who wants unsavoury soups and eggs, or Asian food without soy or margaritas without salt crystals? Well-salted Christians enhance whatever’s around them, casting the light of faith upon the world. By opening minds and hearts to knowledge and wisdom, to evangelisation and encouragement, feeding imagination and instilling virtues also, Christians make Gospel flavours permeate the whole dish of life.

Salt enhances, but ultimately it disperses itself. Thus Jesus says we Christians must be like yeast in the bread of the world, loving our neighbours, even our enemies, and infecting them with the Gospel, diminishing self so the other may grow. Putting aside ego and control, we empty ourselves and let our young people discover, learn, grow until they are the ones to spread the flavour of the Gospel to others.

This past two years our young people have experienced the kind of trial that comes around only once in a century. Covid, the associated lockdown, and the anxieties also have been an enormous challenge for you all. Yet as your Vice-Captain told me, your school has been outstanding in keeping your education going and keeping in contact with you so you were not too isolated.

This is an example of what makes us so proud about Catholic education. This past year we’ve marked 200 years of making that contribution in Australia. The Church has been engaged in teaching longer than any state system or for-profit provider, and education, more than anything, makes it the biggest non-government employer. But it’s not our age or size that most matters, or even the quality of our teachers, curriculums, pedagogies or these great facilities: those are all means to an end. What matters is that we can offer daily opportunities to our students to come to know Jesus better, know themselves better, know their world better. Our task and theirs is to salt and savour, light and enlighten, build and civilise, transfiguring by divine grace our culture and polity, arts and sciences, sports and leisure, workplaces and professions, homes and families. It’s what makes us into living Sermons on the Mount. And it is to that end that we dedicate our newest facilities today!