Feb. 9, 2020 - 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(IS 58:7-10; 1 COR 2:1-5; MT 5:13-16)
The admonitions of Isaiah draw a contrast between various good works and purely religious practices like fasting. Just before today's selection, Isaiah says “Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed, and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:” Then follows the list of works of justice that make up our first reading. Isaiah tells us that doing religious acts does not excuse neglecting justice for others. God rewards such acts beyond what we deserve. In the Gospel, Jesus also tells of the value of good deeds. He uses the term “salt of the earth” to describe those who do these deeds with passion and enthusiasm. Salt that has lost its taste might mean those who do their good works out of the sense of duty rather than out of love.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes how ineffective human wisdom is in preaching salvation. Instead the power of salvation rests solely with the Cross of Christ. We can do nothing without it, no matter how eloquent we are. With the Cross there is nothing we cannot do, no matter how humble our speech may be. Human wisdom just doesn't matter in the light of the Cross. Paul admits he came to them in fear and trembling and without sublime speech. But he is confident that Christ and his Cross are sufficient.