Salt of the Earth

In His Sermon on the Mount, Christ said to His disciples: “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mt 5:13). Here is what several commentators have said about this statement:

“This shows them how necessary were these precepts for them. Not for your own salvation merely, or for a single nation, but for the whole world is this doctrine committed to you. It is not for you then to flatter and deal smoothly with men, but, on the contrary, to be rough and biting as salt is. When for thus offending men by reproving them ye are reviled, rejoice; for this is the proper effect of salt to be harsh and grating to the depraved palate. Thus the evil-speaking of others will bring you no inconvenience, but will rather be a testimony of your firmness.” -St. John Chrysostom

“There may be here seen a propriety in our Lord’s language which may be gathered by considering the Apostles’ office, and the nature of salt. This, used as it is by men for almost every purpose, preserves from decay those bodies which are sprinkled with it; and in this, as well as in every sense of its flavour as a condiment, the parallel is most exact. The Apostles are preachers of heavenly things, and thus, as it were, salters with eternity; rightly called ‘the salt of the earth,’ as by the virtue of their teaching, they, as it were, salt and preserve bodies for eternity.” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Salt is changed into another kind of substance by three means, water, the heat of the sun, and the breath of the wind. Thus Apostolical men also were changed into spiritual regeneration by the water of baptism, the heat of love, and the breath of the Holy Spirit.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“The Apostles are the salt of the earth, that is, of worldly men who are called the earth, because they love this earth.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“By the Apostles the whole human race is seasoned.” -St. Jerome

“In the Old Testament no sacrifice was offered to God unless it were first sprinkled with salt [Lv 2:13], for none can present an acceptable sacrifice to God without the flavour of heavenly wisdom.” -Remigius of Auxerre

“Because man is ever liable to change, He therefore warns the Apostles, who have been entitled ‘the salt of the earth,’ to continue stedfast in the might of the power committed to them, when He adds, ‘If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted?'” -St. Hilary of Poitiers

“Not he that suffers persecution is trodden under foot of men, but he who through fear of persecution falls away. For we can tread only on what is below us; but he is no way below us, who however much he may suffer in the body, yet has his heart fixed in heaven.” -St. Augustine

Quotations from St. Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea: Commentary on the Four Gospels Collected Out of the Works of the Fathers, Vol. I, Part I (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1841).

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