Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Troubled, saddened, shocked, dismayed, ashamed, and angry. These are some of the words that I have heard this week as another state grand jury investigation was made public. There is nothing wrong with those words or the feelings that they represent.
As they came to my own mind, I also began to think of other words; salt and light.
In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:13-16) Jesus says: “You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” Jesus reminds us that salt enhances the flavor of food and it also helps preserve its goodness. And Jesus asks an important question, “What happens when salt loses its flavor?”
Then Jesus says to us: “You are the light of the world.” Jesus reminds us that light dispels the darkness of sin and evil. Jesus asks another important question, “What happens when someone hides the light under a basket?”
You know the answer to these questions. An opportunity is lost and a greater good may never be realized. That brings me to some other words that came to mind this week. They are words from Pope Francis during the Angelus prayers on January 6, 2018:
“Every community must pay special attention to the small and the great opportunities for goodness that the Lord offers to us, allowing us to be involved in his dynamics of love, of welcome, and of mercy toward all. The authenticity of the Church’s mission (being salt of the earth) is not measured by success or the gratification of results, but by going forward with the courage of trust and the humility of abandonment to God (which means not hiding the light under a basket).”
Significant progress has been made in our diocese since we experienced the publication of a state grand jury report and the memorandum of understanding with the U.S. attorney that followed. Those revelations of darkness allow us to recognize the light of the world. And the reprimands and expectations for reform accepted by me on behalf of our diocese remind us that we need to be careful that we do not discard the salt of the earth.
As we look to what is ahead of us, think about the words, salt and light. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Keep reminding yourselves and me of that important truth. And think about the words of Pope Francis.
This is a moment of small and great opportunities for goodness. What we must be about is not to be measured by success or the gratification of results. It is to be measured by going forward with the courage of trust and the humility of abandonment to God.
We must work together to be involved in the dynamics of Christ’s love, welcome, and mercy toward all. That includes victims and their families, those in the pews and those who are not coming to Church these days, and all of our neighbors.
If keeping the faith seems to have lost its flavor, find the seasoning that only Christ can provide. And if the candle blows out, borrow the flame of faith from someone and light another candle. There cannot and will not be any going backward for us and especially for those who have been suffering without that salt and light. We must go forward with humility and the courage of trust in God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev. Mark L. Bartchak
Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown