of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

While the world may seem to be very indifferent to Christianity most of the time, it can be very critical of Christians who do not seem to be following the most basic tenet of their faith – to be  a people of “good deeds”, as Jesus teaches in today’s portion of the Sermon on the Mount. While we may sometimes feel indignant about the world’s criticism of our faults, we have to remember that we are in a vital relationship with “the world” – we are to be its light. This means that we should welcome the world’s gaze and scrutiny of our actions and beliefs and we should, in a sense, be accountable to the world for the way we live. We should never be salt that loses its taste. This openness to the gaze of all is not for our own glory, however: it is so that others may find what we have found – their way to the Father.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Isaiah 58:7-10
This is a very simple and powerful reading, which should speak very clearly to a congregation: we are very good at complicating things sometimes, and there is a virtue in a simple message, clearly delivered. Let that simplicity come out: don’t preach to the congregation – we should be listening as much as we are reading! Deliver Isaiah’s words with clarity and care, so that they can “sink in” to the congregation’s minds and hearts. Make sure they are ready to listen! The first line of the reading is important: ensure that it is not lost by waiting until the congregation is ready to hear the reading: resist the temptation to hurry to the lectern and to start as soon as the “Amen” to the Opening Prayer of the Mass has been said! Remember to underline the references to light, since that leads to the Gospel passage we will hear shortly afterwards.
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
What was said about simplicity above is relevant for Paul’s reading today: he is concerned that the Corinthians are losing their way by making everything complicated – using philosophy, rather than listening to the story of what Jesus did. Paul spoke as an eye-witness, from his own experience, and wants to rekindle the faith of the Corinthians by reminding them of this. Prepare this reading by thinking about your faith – how did you first experience the presence of Jesus Christ? If you were trying to tell someone about our faith, would it be by telling stories about Jesus and other Christians, or by philosophical arguments? Realise what Paul is saying – there is an eagerness in his argument. He cares deeply about the Church in Corinth, and is trying to help them get “back to basics”. Offer these words to the congregation to help them think about their faith.

From the Catechism

People of God to be salt and light
CCC 782

Moral life and missionary witness
CCC 2044-2046

Light on works of mercy, love for the poor
CCC 2443-2449

The baptized (neophytes) are to be light of the world
CCC 1243

Christ crucified is the wisdom of God
CCC 272

CCC 2443 - 2446: God blesses those who come to the aid of the poor and rebukes those who turn away from them: "Give to him who begs from you, do not refuse him who would borrow from you"; "you received without pay, give without pay." It is by what they have done for the poor that Jesus Christ will recognize his chosen ones. When "the poor have the good news preached to them," it is the sign of Christ's presence. "The Church's love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to "be able to give to those in need." It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty. Love for the poor is incompatible with immoderate love of riches or their selfish use: "Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have killed the righteous man; he does not resist you." St. John Chrysostom vigorously recalls this: "Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs." "The demands of justice must be satisfied first of all; that which is already due in justice is not to be offered as a gift of charity": When we attend to the needs of those in want, we give them what is theirs, not ours. More than performing works of mercy, we are paying a debt of justice.

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