According to Matthew 7:15, Jesus cautions us by saying, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.” Frankly, I did not realize that adage originated from the Gospels. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing. Thinking about this phrase I have come to realize that Jesus is speaking not only to humanity in general, but directly to me! I need to be consistent in my love toward God and my fellow man in order to avoid turning into that same false prophet I am called to be on the look-out for.
Jesus spoke with such clarity and used tangible examples. I am not going to “reinvent the wheel” regarding today’s topic. During his Sermon on the Mount discourse in Matthew 5, the Good Teacher charged his followers to be the salt of the earth. Above there are two pictures: one is salt the other is sugar. At face value both appear to be indistinguishable—similar to a wolf donning lamb’s fleece is camouflaged from its prey. Salt and sugar play a significant part in our life. Both add flavor to otherwise dull food. Excessive amounts of sodium and sugar lead to health problems. What I want to focus on is the dichotomous relationship between salt and sugar? Am I the salt or sugar of the Earth? Let’s see!
1. To preserve or not to preserve…that is the question: Aside from flavoring bland dishes or enhancing taste in already good meals, the main purpose of salt is to preserve food against deterioration. Salt draws out excess water from foods and dehydrates it. This process allows for increased storage times—especially in cases where food is in abundance and needs to be saved for later periods. Jesus used the example of salt because of its universal application and practical usage in daily living. He calls Christians to act as theological relish and preservative to society. Sometimes a little salt goes a long way in improving the taste of food. We need not feel defeated if it feels like we are moving against a seeming endless tide of negativity from the world. Holiness is what all Christians are called to—look at the saints and the witness they provided a world in despair.
2. Deny Yourself and Follow Him: In high school, I took chemistry and became fascinated with the various atomic structures of elements, molecules, and compounds. I found a certain beauty in their ordering and design. Below are picture of the atomic structure of NaCL [sodium chloride- table salt] and C₆H₁₂O₆ [glucose- a common sugar].
From a microscopic vantage point, a clear distinction may be made between these two common household items. Both are composed of entirely different elements [hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen in Glucose] and [sodium and chloride in salt]. Along with the having different building materials, sugar and salt are fashioned with different types of bonds—covalent and ionic respectively. Covalent bonds are stronger because the shared electron is what keeps the elements held together whereas in an ionic bond one element loses an electron to another causing one element to become positively charged and the other to become negatively charged such as in the case of NaCl or table salt.
In other words, the elements in table salt lose an electron to effect the ionic charge of the sodium or chloride molecule. Initially, losing may be viewing negativity [no pun intended!]. One may think that due to the stronger nature of the covalent bond in sugar that it should be preferred to salt. The New Testament does shed some light on the reality of loss and rejection. Luke 9:23-25 turns this notion on its head when Jesus says, “Then he said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily* and follow me. 24For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?'”
Christ’s words elicit a sense of paradox, yet allure within my mind. Interesting, I gain life when I serving other’s needs above my selfish desires. In my weakness I am stronger! Through a theological ionic bond, Christians act as holy seasoning to embolden our world.
3. Instant Gratification Leads to Decay: Dentists frighten me. Not in The Exorcist or The Shining sort of way. Still, I get apprehensive, anxious, and move toward hypochondriac-like behaviors when the subject of dentists come up. Perhaps, it stemmed from my penchant as a little kid for losing my teeth quickly and easily. Or maybe my periodontal panic happened due to my need for braces– not once, but twice in my elementary school years! Regardless of where this toothy torment began, I recognize that when I limit my sugar intake life is much easier during my semi-annual check-ups.
Excessive sugar proves damaging to both our physical and mental well-being. Unhealthy attraction to sugar is simply a euphemism for the sin of gluttony. Our society suffers from the belief that instant gratification is better than self-denial or self-control. I am as guilty of this vice as anyone. I have made it a point to limit my sugar consumption and practice fasting– to help me both spiritually and physically. I think Jesus choose not to use sugar as an example to relate to Christians because he understood the appeal and temptation this food item poses for humanity.
While sugar and salt look similiar in outward appearance the two are vastly different. How do we distinguish between the two? First, we learn to trust the authority of the manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of these products. We trust that the packaging is correct. When a box at the grocery store says “SUGAR” it really is sugar and not salt. A second way to learn is more difficult– through the school of experience. Maybe sugar is housed in a clear container in your home. If you forgot to label it only tasting the substance will you determine if it truly is sugar and not salt.
The same may be said about temptations and goods sent our way. Oftentimes, Satan dresses up sin as “sugar” to enhance its allure. This makes is easier to fell prey to his trap. Our adversary disguised sin under the costume of a juicy fruit– see Genesis 3 for the story of the Fall. May we continue to rely on the tradition of the Catholic Church, Sacred Scriptures, and testament of the saints for guidance in our journey toward holiness. Let us be the salt of the Earth and preserve society! There is more to you than meets the eye.
The first followers of Jesus were simple fishermen and in today’s post I am going to put forth a pithy piscary example of how Christians should approach the topic of Evangelization.
To begin the very first command Jesus gave to the Apostles occurred in Matthew 28:19 when he said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Thus, God makes it clear that EVERYONE is called to hear the good news of his Resurrection! I know this may sound cliché, but the example of Peter, James, and John being called by Jesus to become fishers of men is an extremely appropriate and ever applicable way to speak of how we should approach evangelization.
I am not an expert in fishing. I have a couple family members who fish for a living, but alas, I can count on one hand the total times I have been fishing in my lifetime. Nevertheless, last month my family and I went fishing with my father-in-law. While a lot of things are necessary for fishing I will highlight only two things that directly apply to evangelization as well: patience and fishhooks.
First, patience is essential to fishing especially when we went because it took over thirty minutes before we caught anything. The same is true for spreading our faith. We have to wait and lead others to Christ on God’s time. God is not giving commission-based raises on how many converts we pull in, rather I image God wants us to patiently wait for the right people to be placed in our life that need our help or hooking to lead them to the Catholic Church.
This now leads to be the second thing needed for fishing– a fishhook. Without that barbed instrument on the end of the line it would be nearly impossible to hook and capture a fish. Likewise, I tend to see Jesus’ command to be fishers of men (see Matthew 4:19) in a more nuanced way, namely, that we should be the hook that captures people and keeps them on God’s line. I mean imagine the greatest evangelists in the history of the Catholic Church: St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi–what did they all have in common? They all suffered from a “barbed past”. Paul was a killer, Augustine was a sex addict, and Francis came from a miserable family. However, just like a fishhook is designed to be sharp and curved at the end to hook a fish’s gums so too God uses saints that have overcome a checkered and barbed past to help Him reel in new people into the Catholic Church.
My challenge to you, my readers, is this: if you sense that God has placed certain people in your life to evangelize to please do not be afraid to do so. The best witness to evangelize our faith is to hear from people that have suffered yet maintained a steadfast faith in God. Do not shy away from a “barbed” or hurtful past. Open yourself up to share your faith story. I truly feel God is calling me to work in a secular workplace to shine forth his truth. As a matter of fact, I had a couple co-workers interested in my faith and I feel called by God to be his “fishhook”. But I need to be patient and allow Him to do most of the reeling in; I am simply His evangelical instrument and He the Divine fisherman.