13 June 2006

A Salty Claim

Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth. Unfortunately, in the post-industrial revolution age of all things electric we have little experience of why this is so significant. We read labels, try to eat foods that boast of having "no preservatives," and refrigerate what is left over. In Jesus' day, salt was the only hope people had for preserving food. So, salt was a very essential and very valuable compound. (You've probably heard this before, but don't stop reading; this post is going to make an outrageous claim.)

At great risk of meddling in the work of professional linguists and etymologists, it seems reasonable to draw a few conclusions. Salt, in Latin, is sal, salis. It was a highly sought-after commodity in the ancient world. Roman soldiers were paid a salary so they could purchase salt for themselves. Although the adjective salvus (safe, well, alive, etc.) usually takes credit for being the root of our word, "salvation," it seems possible to argue that having salt made one well and healthy. Perhaps the root of the Roman notions of health (salus, salutis) and being alive (salvus) was linked to the precious seasoning we know as salt.

If the work of the Church on earth is truly the salvation of souls, then we should take as our marching orders Jesus' claim that we are the salt of the earth. Let us be "consumed" with all that is salubrious for the spiritual good of our neighbors. And let us be willing and gracious instruments who bear witness to the Lord's gift of salvation.

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