Num. 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29; Ps. 104:27-35 (ant. 24); James 5:1-20; Mark 9:38-50
Salt, “For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (vv. 49, 50).
Jesus is addressing his Apostles’ failure to grasp feeding the Loaves and his coming Passion (Mk. 6:52; 9:32). Recently Jesus admonished their puffed-up Kingdom ambitions to “greatness” by enfolding a great one in their midst; a powerless child, needing from the family all things and destined for service.
John attempted to distract Jesus from the corrective by questioning those magically employing Jesus’ name for exorcisms. Jesus blows-off John’s tactic by an enigmatic saying, “[H]e that is not against us is for us” (v. 40), and returning to the topic at hand, true kingdom greatness.
The argument over which Apostle was “greatest” had brought them close to infecting the nascent church; so, Jesus prescribes the curative for their friendship toward the world; surgical removal.
If hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, cut it out (vv. 43-47). The surgery individuals is figurative; but quite literally applied to members of Christ’s Body, who for friendship with the world are removed from fellowship of the Loaves.
Rotted apples must not contaminate the barrel. Excommunicates are returned to the Holy Communion when restored as good fruit through the sacrament of Penance or Holy Absolution.
Likewise, St. James pulls no punches, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God” (4:4); and, “Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire” (5:3).
God warned Cain, “Sin is always crouching at the door … you must rule over it” (Gen. 4:7); and today Jesus warns of hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (Mk. 9:48).
How is it possible to “rule over” sin, Satan, and the world, all claiming dominion over lives? St. Paul describes the dilemma; “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh … For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Rom. 7:18a, 19, 23). James too assigns worldly passions a communicable disease (4:1).
How is it possible not to sin? Well, this side of heaven, perhaps it is not; but with God “All things are possible to him who believes” (Mk. 9:23). The truth is, by Christ’s gospel, Satan is already defeated (Lk. 10:18); yet he and evil continue to roam in retreat, especially against the church, launching fiery darts until Armageddon’s final cataclysm.
So, what do we do: we put on the full defensive armor of God (Eph. 6:11)? And to this end Jesus teaches of the Loaves and his Passion; “For everyone will be salted with fire” (Mk. 9:49), the antidote to hell’s undying worm.
Have you ever salted a worm; it melts away. Jesus speaks of himself, “Salt is good …” (v. 50). By Baptism we are salted in Christ for the melt of sin to on-going holiness. Christ crucified is fired-Salt, in and with, the church’s Loaf for its priestly Food.
Accept, if you will, a homework assignment. Open to Acts 1:4; before the Ascension; invariably translations render, “And [Jesus] staying with [the Apostles] …” Of these translations we purloin from Porgy and Bess, “the things that you’re liable to read in the Bible, it ain’t necessarily so.”
Rather, a correct sacramental translation of the Greek has, “as [Jesus] was eating and taking salt together with [the Apostles] …”; a direct reference to the OT sacrificial woof and warp connecting his Apostles in the coming NT Loaves and Passion. Moses prescribed for “peace” offerings, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt … On all your offerings you must offer salt” (Lev. 2:13).
By the Spirit delivered on Pentecost Jesus enlightens about the Loaves. What then does Jesus mean, “[E]veryone will be salted with fire” (Mk. 9:49), than his self-donated flesh and blood on the cross fulfilled Moses’ command for feeding God’s priesthood (Lev. 2:3).
In Capernaum Jesus proclaimed, “I Am the Bread of Life come down from heaven” (Jn. 6:41). Jesus, in his flesh, came for feeding his church as God’s incarnate, salt-fired word on the cross, our sacramental Loaf in Thanksgiving to God. The church’s Eucharist is her new Temple Food; Showbread offered to God, sanctified, and returned to the Baptized for peace with God and each other.
When Jesus instructed the bickering Apostles about “greatness” he said, “Have Salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another” (Mk. 9:50). This was redux from the Sermon on The Mount, “You are the salt of the earth …” (Mt. 5:13). But before we may be salt for the earth, we must be salted in ourselves by fire-salted Grain, gathered in Christ our “good Salt” for peace with God and one another.
Our eucharistic offered gifts in Christ: grain, wine, and worldly treasure for the poor and your pastor are associated with our corporate Prayer at the Altar, where God acknowledges our share in Jesus’ priestly character, returning to us consecrated Bread out of heaven. Amen.