5th Sunday Homily Notes – Year A

Resources Used:

Overall Message

  • The liturgy shows us this week that the Church, and every Christian, is called to fulfill Israel’s mission. By our faith and good works we are to make the light of God’s life break forth in the darkness, as we sing in this week’s Psalm. This week’s readings remind us that our faith can never be a private affair, something we can hide as if under a basket. We are to pour ourselves out for the afflicted, as Isaiah tells us in the First Reading. Our light must shine as a ray of God’s mercy for all who are poor, hungry, naked, and enslaved. There must be a transparent quality to our lives. Our friends and family, our neighbors and fellow citizens, should see reflected in us the light of Christ and through us be attracted to the saving truths of the Gospel. ~ Scott Hahn

1st Reading – Isaiah 58:7-10

  • Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah [58:7-10] reminds us that merely external worship does not avail with God; it must be joined to internal sincerity.  Isaiah tells us the kind of fast that the Lord expects from us.  He encourages his listeners to ‘do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word’, and to do it by ‘sharing your bread with the hungry and clothing the man you see to be naked’.  When you do these things, then “light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”
  • There may be many reasons why, at times, we choose the way of the clenched fist rather than the open hand: hurt and disappointment, tiredness and indifference, fear and misunderstanding, selfishness and disdain.  Whatever the reasons, the clenched fist always involves turning from our own kin and denying, in effect, that others are of the same kin. The open hand, however, means turning towards others as our kin, fellow human beings, brothers and sisters, children of the same heavenly Father sharing a common call to become the people of the Beatitudes.

7 Sharing your bread with the hungry,

  • Literally, “breaking your bread” (see Acts 2:46; Mark 6:41; Mark 14:22). Jesus, in Matthew 25:31-46 makes the final judgment depend upon the kindly acts of charity mentioned here.

2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

4 and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive (words of) wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

  • The conviction Paul’s message conveyed and the success that met his preaching at Corinth were due to the Holy Spirit, and not to rhetorical eloquence or philosophic reasoning. Thus, the faith of the Corinthians rests on God’s power and not on human eloquence or wisdom.
  • “Human wisdom denied the cross, but faith proclaimed the power of God. Wisdom not only failed to reveal the things which people sought after, but also it encouraged them to boast of their own achievements. But faith not only gave them the truth, it also encouraged them to glorify God.” [Saint John Chrysostom (A.D. 392), Homilies on the First Epistle to the Corinthians 6,3]

Gospel – Matthew 5:13-16

  • Having just completed His Sermon on the Mount which we heard last week, Jesus applies the beatitudes to the hearers of the sermon. He makes this application by using the homely metaphors of salt as seasoning and the single lamp that was used in the one-room house of the Palestinian peasant.


  • In the ancient biblical world, salt was a precious commodity.  It gave flavor and zest to food; it served as an important preservative; salt also made people thirst for something more.  Jesus wanted his disciples to give flavor and zest to the world through his teaching; to preserve the truth as he proclaimed it to the world; to make the world thirst for more.
  • In the ancient biblical world, salt was one of the most important necessities of life.  Salt was used to preserve as well as to season food.  In addition to its use with food, salt was strewn on sacrifices– both cereal offerings and burnt offerings.  It was used for making covenants and representing commitment:  “You shall not omit from your grain offerings the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” [Lev. 2:13].
  • The Old Testament also speaks of ‘covenant of salt’: “All the holy offerings that the Israelites present to the LORD I have given to you, together with your sons and daughters, as a perpetual due; it is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD for you and your descendants as well” [Num. 18:19].  ‘Covenant of salt’ means a permanent relationship; eating salt with someone meant to be bound in loyalty.  This is what the evangelist Mark refers to when he writes: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” [Mark 9:50].  Salt was also used to rub a newborn child, either for medicinal or other purposes, such as the desire to save the child from demonic forces.
  • The concern that “salt has lost its flavor” is difficult for us to understand today, especially because of the purity of the salt we use.  In the time of Jesus, salt was not purified in the way that we know but was collected from deposits left by the Dead Sea as it dried.  This salt was exposed to the elements and could break apart and lose its flavor.  Such salt is a very appropriate metaphor for discipleship, which can and does lose its vigor over time if care is not taken to keep it alive. When Jesus calls his disciples “salt of the earth”, he is alluding to many of the dimensions of salt described above.  Disciples are those who can season what is tasteless, preserve what could deteriorate and express mutual covenant and loyalty.  Disciples of Jesus are those who speak well: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone [Col. 4:6].  To be salt for the earth-oven is to have that fire within- to set things on fire around us, to keep the light burning brightly.
  • If we do this as his disciples, we, too, will also be “light of the world”.  Here we see how the two images of salt and light are masterfully joined together. Jesus reveals himself to be a clever and imaginative teacher, one who gave flavor, zest, life and light to those around him.


  • In addition to being salt for the earth, Jesus called his followers to be the light of the world. In the memorable sermon on the Galilean hillside, Jesus transfers his light to those who follow him: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus is the light of the world.  Jesus calls us to be that same light.
  • Light has the characteristic of dispelling darkness, of warming all it reaches, of exalting forms. All this is done with the greatest speed.  Being the light of the world means for Christians, spreading everywhere the light that comes from on high. It means fighting darkness due to evil and sin and often caused by ignorance, prejudice and selfishness.
  • By their deeds the disciples are to influence the world for good. They can no more escape notice than a city set on a mountain. If they fail in good works, they are as useless as flavorless salt or as a lamp whose light is concealed.  By inviting us to be “light,” Jesus invites us to make him present in the world.  Just as the presence of salt and light cannot be hidden and their absence will be noticed, the kindness of the good person cannot be denied.  The good works of the open-handed shine forth so that people might praise the Father for the holiness they glimpse in His creatures.

15 Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

  • The imagery presupposes a one-room Palestinian house and a common clay oil lamp. The disciple lives not only for self but for others.

16 Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.

  • This verse contains a delicate balance between doing good works and not being proud or taking credit. The life of discipleship should not lead to arrogance but to the conversion of many to “your heavenly Father.”
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