At the time of Christ, salt was a valuable commodity. The Greeks called it divine, and the Romans offered it to their gods. Romans soldiers were often paid with salt (sale), and even today in Italy the colloquial term for money is saldi. Jewish rabbis used the image of salt for the Torah, because both are necessary for life. On the peaceful, sloping hills of Galilee overlooking the Sea of Gennesareth, Jesus instructed the people on what it means to be his disciple. At one point he said, "You are the salt of the earth." (Mt 5:13)
Salt has three special qualities:
First, salt purifies. The Romans said salt was the purest of all things, and this is why they used it in religious sacrifices. Christians still use salt as a sacramental against evil influences. Just as salt purifies, Christians must also purify. Today the standards of morality and values are almost leveled. A Christian must be the one to live a life of integrity.
Second, salt preserves. Salt is the most common preservative, used from antiquity up to our own day. It keeps food and other things from going bad and becoming corrupt. In the same way, Christians must have a cleansing, antiseptic influence on life. People usually avoid dirty jokes or foul language when a Christian is around, because his or her presence defeats corruption and makes it easier for others to be good.
Finally, salt enhances. Christianity is to life what salt is to food...it makes it more enjoyable, brings out its best flavor. Salt is ordinary and inconspicuous, disappearing when mixed with food, but you can taste the effects! With this salt we remain serene in a worried world; joyful in a depressed world; radiant and full of life.
Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth." Not, "You will be," or "You should be," but "You are." This salt is given to us in the Holy Spirit and fidelity to God's word. Christ's disciples are the salt of the earth, purifying the world of its greed, lust, indifference, overcoming the culture of death with the vitality, trust and joy of life in God. May we never lose our distinctiveness of salt!