Thomas Merton (d. 1968), the well-known Trappist monk, in his 1948 autobiography, Seven-Story Mountain, speaks of being “salt of the earth”. In this Sunday’s gospel (Mark 9:38-50), Jesus tells us: “have salt in yourselves”. Thomas, of course, speaks of religious life, which is about belonging to God in a unique and special way, thanks to the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The spirit of religious life, however, ought to permeate the journey of each of us and of us all as Body of Christ, the Church. We are called wholeheartedly to belong to God. And, in that belonging, to impart the flavor of God to one another and, as the same passage says, to “be at peace with one another”.
I will let Thomas speak:
I had to be led by a way that I could not understand, and I had to follow a path that was beyond my own choosing. God did not want anything of my natural fancies and selections until they had been more completely divorced from their old track, their old habits, and directed to Himself, by His own working…My selfishness was asserting itself, and claiming this whole vocation for itself, by investing the future with all kinds of natural pleasures and satisfactions which would fortify and defend my ego against the troubles and worries of life in the world.
Besides, I was depending almost entirely on my own powers and on my own virtues — as if I had any! — to become a good religious, and to live up to my obligations in the monastery. God does not want that. He does not ask us to leave the world as a favor to Himself.
God calls us — not only religious, but all Christians — to be the “salt of the earth.” But the savor of the salt, says St. Augustine, is a supernatural life, and we lose our savor if, ceasing to rely on God alone, we are guided, in our actions, by the mere desire of temporal goods or the fear of their loss: “Be ye not solicitous, therefore, saying what shall we eat, or what shall we drink or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things.” “And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; for he that shall lose his life, for my sake, shall save it.”