Jesus said to His disciples:

“You are the salt of the earth.

But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?

It is no longer good for anything

but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. …”

Matthew 5:13-16

Unless you want to develop heart disease, they say you’re not supposed to eat more than 2,300 milligrams of salt in a day. That’s unfortunate. Salt is delicious. Salt elevates the flavor of food. That’s why my mom gets mad at dad for salting her cooking ― “it doesn’t need salt!” And have you ever looked at the sodium numbers for your favorite restaurants? They’re humongous. They might as well measure in “light years.” Don’t get me wrong: I’m sure you can cook healthy and enjoy it. But salt is good.

Jesus tells his disciples they’re supposed to be “the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13). They are supposed to elevate the flavor of earthly existence. It’s an odd way for the Christian to think about life, isn’t it? It’s odd to think that Christians are called to make life delicious. They are supposed to make life flavorful ― they bring it to life, so to speak. If you want to keep the cooking metaphor: Christians aren’t supposed to be cold, dry or bland. You don’t necessarily have to be the life of your party, but you do have to salt and cook your meat!

There’s no shortage, of course, of Christians who do not make life delicious. The Trappists of Kentucky tell an old story about one of their monks being in a sour mood. They say that, during a period of contemplation, when silence was expected from the brothers, a certain monk’s quiet pouting was poisoning the whole community. One monk finally broke the silence: “Brother! Enough! Christians have no business being sad!”

But this holds not just among monks. It holds when Christians go out and engage with the world. Christians are too often sad and angry about the state of things. We sometimes think we’re called to convince the world it’s wrong about everything, that our vocation is to take up arms against every error. It is true that there is a time to be indignant about errors, but it’s not all the time.

“The Christian is cheerful,” St. John Henry Newman used to say, “and he is easy.” The Christian’s warmth and “easiness” seasons life. The world is won over to Jesus, not by combat, but by a little salt. A gloomy or combative Christian wins over nothing. It’s like the monk said: Christians have no business being sad.

And that is just it. It is true that there is suffering in the world, that we are disappointed with things. We have not yet arrived at that place where God will “wipe away every tear” (Rev 21:4). But for the Christian ― even in this world ― there is so much more reason for joy than there is for sorrow or anger. For the Christian, joy is the decisive theme of the universe. And the reason the Christian is joyful is not just because she knows that the disappointments of this world are all passing away. Indeed, the Christian is never overcome because the cause of her joy is Christ. The cause of the Christian’s joy is her constant contact with the one who makes life glorious. Joy is the last word. [1]

When people encounter this kind of joy in Christians ― this kind of hope ― life becomes delicious. The salt of a Christian reveals that life has flavors they never noticed before, that life is glorious to live. When people encounter this kind of joy, their life is elevated. They want to be around Christians. They want to be Christians.

Jesus says that, one way or another, Christians are salt. “But if salt loses its taste … it is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot” (Mt 5:13). Either we will season the entire world or we will be thrown down and trampled upon. In short, if you’re not seasoning ― if you don’t make the world delicious ― people will discard you. You’ll either elevate people’s lives ― you’ll give them hope and a reason to live differently ― or they’ll toss you thoughtlessly on the sidewalk so as not to slip on the ice. Put another way, you’ll either make Jesus deliciously present in people’s lives, or you’ll see Him once more tossed to the Earth, forgotten and unnoticed as people trample about their days.

[1] See Dietrich von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2001), 464.

—Anthony Rosselli (PhD candidate in theology, University of Dayton) writes from St. Luke and Ascension parishes in Franklin County, Vermont. See more at ajrossellivt.blogspot.com.

—Originally published in the Spring 2020 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.

View All Posts by This Author