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Speaking to the Soul: Salt and Light

Speaking to the Soul: Salt and Light

by Laurie Gudim

The Feast Day of Leo the Great

Matthew 5:13-19

After what for me was a very disheartening presidential election, it was a joy to find on Facebook this morning several posts from Church leaders.  The gist of all of them was that, acknowledging that the government will not help us, it will be up to us as the Church to become even more thoroughly the hands and heart of Christ in the world.  We will need to step up our efforts to help of those who have fallen into poverty, to work for justice for those who are oppressed, to take in those who are homeless, and to companion those who are prisoners.  We will need to become flexible and generous, and to return to the model of Christianity that existed before the Church became a state religion clear back when Constantine became enamored of the Christian God.

And so I am reminded that Jesus was born into an occupied country, that his people suffered under an oppressive foreign government, and that his movement was the most basic, grass-roots endeavor it is possible to imagine.  His disciples included the marginalized of his society – tax collectors, women of poor repute, people who had been lame or blind, laborers and lepers.  And it was to this riffraff that he gave the Great Commission.  It was they he commanded to be his Body in the world.

Today in our calendar of Holy Men and Women we remember Pope Leo the Great, who was in Rome from 440 to 461, when Constantine had moved his empire to Constantinople and the government of Italy was also situated elsewhere. He is known for his contribution to the Council of Chalcedon – but also, and less famously, for interceding for the people of his city with two sets of nasty occupying forces – the Huns and the Vandals.

“You are the earth’s salt,” says Jesus in the Gospel reading for today.  “You are the world’s light.”  Being salt – genuine and big-hearted and willing to speak our truth – many of us will need to grieve.  And we will need to be frightened and angry about what has happened to this country.  But then we will need to find and to follow the current of love that emerges from the place within us where Christ dwells.  That place of salt and light will lead us to listen compassionately to one another.  Whether we celebrate the results of this election or mourn, we will need to listen to one another.  And that will lead to our reaching out, as the Body of Christ to all those who need us in every corner of the land.

I imagine Pope Leo the Great looking out at the fires of the invaders from his balcony in Rome and despairing.  I imagine him praying.  Then I imagine him tapping into that place in which he was salt and light.  That wondrous, generative center from which Christ could shine forth through him would have lit up the whole city.

In Christian community, compassionately reaching out, imagining the best of one another, forgiving and helping one another, we make our church gatherings truly the Body of Christ.    Then we can reach out to people who have fallen into poverty.  We can walk in solidarity with those who have been marginalized and work for the rights and well-being of those whose voices are often silenced.  And we can speak truth to power.  Always we can speak truth to power.  In these ways we are salt for the world.  In these ways our lights shine.



Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO.  You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.


Image: By Raphael – Web gallery of Art: [2]Art Renewal Centerdescription, Public Domain, Link The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila


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David Carver

My parish had a special evening prayer service tonight; The atmosphere of quiet despair was palpable. Similar sentiments were expressed; We were commissioned to go out into the world and do the work set for us. And amongst all the solemn adults, there was one face whose smile couldn’t be extinguished – a little girl, probably no more than 9 years of age. As I looked into her smiling face, I couldn’t help but smile for a moment, too. There is hope.

Laurie Gudim

Beautiful, Brian. This gave me chills. May we fully live into our deep connection with one another, hopefully and vigilantly insisting on accountability.

Bryan Link Manning Hunt

Thank you for putting Leo the Great in his context with the Vandals and the Huns at Rome. I may have known this at some time, and certainly had studied it, but no longer retained a sense of this context. Context helps us look both at Leo, and at our own times, in a slightly different light. It informs both our faith and life, as well as our perception of the roles of religious and governmental institutions.

Most of this week I was in Houston with my sister and my mother at the MD Anderson Cancer Institute, where my mother was finishing a regime of treatment and meeting with her doctors.

Needless to say, such a situation is a bit stressful even when the prognosis is very good, as in this case. For me, the stress was magnified because, while religion is an integral part of the lives both of my family-of-origin and myself, the practice and development of our respective faiths has been in very different directions. This is reflected in many ways, but politics seems to bring the application of our beliefs into stark contrast and focus.

The above to say that as I drove back home from Houston last night, I found myself in a position similar yours, though I had a radio in the car rather than Facebook.

I don’t know the radio stations in Houston, but happened across one where a representative of the National Council of Churches was giving a brief statement about the upcoming transition of powers. It was clear to me that I was missing something about the context of his statement — although what he said was appropriate there was something peculiar about his focus and I couldn’t quite figure out where this was going.

The mystery, however, was soon cleared up as I listened to subsequent statements from various religious leaders — who were all speaking highly about the institutions of our (the U.S.’s) constitutional democracy, especially our orderly transition of power and the protections enshrined in our constitution and our mechanisms for trying to uphold these ideals; as well as emphasizing the need for us, both individually and corporately as members of religious groups, to not only work with the president-elect and our government, but also hold them accountable to those ideals.

Except for the representative of the NCC, all the speakers I heard were Muslims. I was listening to a rebroadcast of a press conference put together by the Council on American-Islamic-Relations (CAIR), an umbrella group for Muslim civil rights and advocacy groups.

While I doubt these were the church leaders you reference at the beginning of your reflection, listening to these representatives and leaders of the various member groups, I began — for the first time since the results of the election were clear — to feel cautiously optimistic about the next four years.

Your reflection on Leo the Great helped me connect what I heard and felt in the car driving back, both to another person’s own experience, and to the holy men and women of my own faith tradition.

Thank you,

Bryan Link Hunt
Austin, Texas

10 Nov 2016

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