Sunday, February 9
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5: 13 -16
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.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
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.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Our Sr. Teresa Tuite is the native Bay Stater on our parish staff, but I’m sure she won’t mind if I turn your attention for just a moment to that Commonwealth. In 1630, as the English Puritans prepared to set sail for their new home, the first governor of Massachusetts, John Winthrop, gave a famous sermon entitled “A Model of Christian Charity” to his followers. He quoted today’s Gospel and declared that their new American colony “shall be as a ‘city upon a hill.’ For the eyes of all people are upon us.” Many political scientists point to this Puritan ideal of the “exceptional society” as a foundational element of all future American political thought.
As Catholics, our dogmatic theology is far from the stark and uncompromising Calvinism of those first English settlers. We can smile at the naivete that could believe the Atlantic Ocean would be for the Elect a sufficient barrier against the intrusion of the Unregenerate masses’ brokenness and sin. But while as Catholics the Puritans may not be our theological forebears, perhaps as Americans we can draw strength from their example of courageous optimism and hope. It was an earnest optimism, a true belief in the possibility of a better world, conformed completely to Jesus Christ. That ideal led them to leave behind hearth and country, to cross a perilous sea, and to carve out a new home on the shores of a vast wilderness.
Holy Mother Church gives us her Social Doctrine, whereby we are given the tools and outlook to start working to bring about a more just, merciful, and equitable world–a more Christian world. What if we American Catholics took to heart the Puritans’ example of heroic optimism and fortitude and applied it to our living out of the Gospel and efforts to ensure the dignity of every human being? Just imagine how a vibrant and outspoken Catholic Church could help guide and lead America to live up to its loftiest Christian ideals!
God often works in ironic ways. What could be more ironic than if it was the faithful implementation of Catholic Social Doctrine which helped to create that just and exemplary “City upon a Hill” first envisioned by Calvinist refugees four centuries ago?