By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THOSE are very intriguing words of Christ found in the gospel of St. Mark. “Everyone will be salted with fire,” he said. “Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavour? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.” (9,49-50)
Salt and fire somehow imply a process of burning for the purpose of purification. That we would all be salted with fire can mean that in this life of ours, we should expect some process of burning purification that can be brought about by some inconvenient, if not bad, events and circumstances of life.
We do not have to look far to verify this fact of life. We will always have difficulties of all sorts, trials and challenges, blunders and crises, etc. Christ himself warned us that “in this world, you will have trouble.” (Jn 16,33) But then again, if we are with him, if we adapt his spirit, his attitude to things, we would also enjoy what he promised: “But take heart I have overcome the world.”
It is when we are “salted with fire” in the sense that Christ meant it that we would enjoy that peace with one another. So, we just have to learn how to be “salted with fire.” Definitely, it would involve a lot of patience, building up our capacity to understand everyone, to be accepting of everyone as he or she is without getting lost or confused as to what is truly right and wrong as defined by Christ.
It would involve shoring up our ability to suffer with Christ, because in this life we can never avoid suffering no matter how much we try to avoid it. We need to learn how to suffer.
The massive problem we have now is precisely that many of us do not know how to suffer. We complain and cry even at the slightest touch of suffering. We become sad and fall into a hard case of depression. Self-pity and idle passivity can dominate us, sinking us into a spiral of problems and predicaments.
Or we can grasp at straws, going to all sorts of useless defense mechanisms and deceptive forms of escapism like sex, drugs, extreme forms of sports and activism, frivolous entertainment, rationalizing philosophies, ideologies, lifestyles, etc. We can in vain try to erase or ignore subjectively what objectively will always be with us in our life.
We have to learn how to suffer. It’s an art and skill that is available if we only care to notice. It’s all there as clear as noonday, its cause and meaning precisely defined, its antidote and vaccine abundantly provided. Our Christian faith sheds tremendous light on this mystery of our life. Christ is showing us the way.
Let’s remember that if God allows us to suffer some deformities or to experience some mistakes and commit sins, it is because he can derive a greater good from them. He wants us to learn a virtue or to grow more in our faith, hope and love for him and for everybody else.
We should try our best, with God’s grace which he actually gives us in abundance, to go beyond the level of the sensible and the intelligible, and enter into the all-beautiful world of our faith where the humanly ugly things are converted into divinely beautiful realities.
It’s only then that we can enjoy that peace with one another that Christ talked about.