Salt to the Earth and Light to the World

Homily for the Fifth Sunday Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

If a child watches TV for three hours a day by the age of thirteen that child will have seen 8,000 murders and over 100,000 other acts of violence (American Psychological Association). Do you think that people can watch violence on TV without being affected by it? It seems unlikely, doesn’t it? Leading authorities worldwide have confirmed that there is a link between viewing violence on TV and violent behavior. One extreme example was reported in the Daily Telegraph on May 18th 1995. Stop or my mum will shoot, an action video, was watched by a six-year-old girl who then accidentally shot her grandfather dead with his revolver as she copied a scene from the film. Many opinion polls show that there is massive public concern about the damage being inflicted by TV violence. A Times-Mirror poll in 1993 showed that 80% of Americans believe that television now exerts a negative impact on society. A poll for BBC2 the following year showed that two thirds of the public believe that violence on television is directly linked to anti-social behavior among children. In the same year a poll by the TV Times reported that 59% of parents believe TV violence encouraged criminal behavior. Dr William Belson studied 1565 boys in London and concluded that the link between watching TV and real life violence was as valid as connecting smoking with lung cancer. In fact there are more than one thousand studies linking violence in the media to actual behavior. That is just violence. But what about pornography? There is enormous circumstantial evidence linking pornography and crime. (All the details above and many more are in The Truth about Violence, Pornography and the Media published by the Maranatha Community, Manchester, UK) And that is just the TV. I am sure we could say the same about the Internet and magazines and newspapers. (stories about TV in stories about family)

In view of all these negative and evil influences the words of Jesus in our Gospel today have more relevance than ever. Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth. What does salt do? Before the days of refrigerators salt was used as a preservative. So when Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth he is asking us to preserve the world from becoming bad, to put it simply. One of the ways in which we can act as salt preserving what is good and preventing evil is by curbing our viewing of TV. Also for those interested, there are Catholic media associations trying to influence what is broadcast on TV. Lent is about to begin. Why not make a decision to watch only healthy and uplifting material for Lent? I heard someone say our minds are like sponges. They can pick up dirt from all sorts of places. We can wash our minds as we wash sponges by filling our minds with what is positive and uplifting. One person who has tried to fill our minds with what is positive and uplifting is Mother Angelica who in 1981 started broadcasting Catholic TV for just a few hours a day from the garage of her Poor Clare Monastery in the US. It grew and grew and now after more than twenty years is available twenty four hours a day all over the world by cable and satellite. We are blessed to have that channel, EWTN, Eternal Word Television Network. It is a healthy and spiritual alternative to all the violence and other things on TV that people are complaining about and fulfilling the words of Paul in our second reading,

...I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 NAB)

Jesus said we are the light of the world and we are to put our light on the lampstand so that everyone in the house can see it. So Jesus is saying not only does he want us to preserve the world from deteriorating but he wants us to influence the world positively, to shed light on the darkness of the world. The darkness caused by all the violence and sin on TV certainly needs the light of Christ. You are the best person to shed light on those you meet. What we say and what we do allows the light of Jesus to shine or hides the light of Jesus. We can allow the light of Jesus to shine on those with whom we live, to shine on those with whom we work, and to shine on our parish community. Every parish has many examples of very good people who allow the light of Jesus to shine, people who have put their lamp on the lampstand so that it shines for everyone in the house. As in the Gospel, seeing their good works we praise our Father in heaven for them. There are many unknown charitable acts which allow the light of Jesus to shine, neighbors helping neighbors, family members helping family members. Even though their good works are so often unknown we give praise to our Father in heaven. Those who shine the light of Christ on others by what they say or do are fulfilling the words of Isaiah in our first reading,

“Share your bread with the hungry,
And shelter the homeless poor,
Clothe the man you see to be naked
And turn not from your own kin.
Then will your light shine like the dawn….”

“If you do away with the yoke,
the clenched fist, the wicked word,
if you give your bread to the hungry,
and relief to the oppressed,
your light will rise in the darkness…” (Isa 58:7-10)

To use the words of Isaiah, our world is hungry and poor, naked, and under a yoke as we can see from all the concern and worry about what is broadcast on TV. But for those we meet every day may we be salt to the earth, preserving the world from evil and may the light of Jesus shine through us so that people may praise our Father in heaven and discover as did Paul

...I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 NAB)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.