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Well, if you’ve seen the classic and most distinguished movie dumb and Dumber, you’ll be able to relate to this homily. There’s a scene in the restaurant where these two guys, Harry and Lloyd, are driving across the country, and they get to this restaurant and stop. There’s like a mom-and-pop shop, and they stop there for lunch, and they’re eating. And Lloyd says to Harry pass the salt. And so Harry goes to pass the salt, knocks it over on the table, and Lloyd goes, I can’t believe you just did that. That’s bad luck, and we don’t need bad luck. Now quick, throw some over your right shoulder. So he grabs the salt shaker and throws the whole salt shaker over his right shoulder. It hits one of the guys in the head, one of the local guys there, and he yells out who did this? And Lloyd says to Harry that was too little, too late, man. And so, as he walks over, he says, who did this and Lloyd is just pointing at Harry like this. Pass the salt; what does that mean? What does it mean if the salt loses its flavor?

So we hear this, that Jesus proclaims this great message, that you are the salt of the earth. And so he’s explaining who you are and that you should never lose your flavor. Well, that can be a little difficult for us because the salt that we have on our tables usually is ionized, and that is pure salt, and it can never lose its flavor. But the salt in Jesus’ time was often taken from the ground, like from the Dead Sea, and it would be taken with Earth, and with that Earth, there would be some impurities. So as they would use that, sometimes the impurities would stay, and the salt would be lost, and before you know it, all you had was the impurities or the dirt left. You would throw it in the ground for people to walk upon. 

In the first reading, too, we hear that the Lord says, share your bread with the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on any. So how do we do that in this day and age? People have often asked me, as a priest, Father, what do you do when somebody is who homeless on the street asks you for money? And I gotta tell you, if you think it’s a difficult decision for you, imagine wearing a collar and walking by somebody who has who’s asking for money. What do we do with that? I will give you a few ideas from the church, the Saints. Saint Leo the Great wrote, Fear not to spend sigh, not over the doubtless of the gain. So he’s saying go ahead, don’t worry about spending, and the gain is up to that person. Pope Francis argued that people should not hesitate to give money directly to the poor. Help, he said, is always right. Almsgiving, donating money or goods to the poor, is the foundation and non-negotiable thing in the church. However, giving alms and how we give them. is negotiable.

So each and every one of us can discern how we help people on the side of the street or anyone we come across. One time I was coming off of, I think, 150th and off of 71. And driving off on a beautiful sunny day must have felt extra generous. I think I was wearing my collar, and there was what appeared to be a homeless guy on the side of the street right at the end, begging for money. And I thought, you know what? I’ll give it to him.  So I grabbed a wad of cash, gave it to him, smiled, and returned to where I was. And that night, there was a news story, and I won’t, I don’t forget it causes this guy had his backpack hung on the street sign. It was memorable. So the news story starts, and it’s this guy’s backpack on the side of the stand, and it pans back and says this guy has been scamming people for about 15 years. I thought, you never know, right? 

So Pope Francis says to throw a few coins. He says it’s not enough. And sometimes, it’s not even the right thing to do to throw a few coins at the poor. What’s important is that dignity. To look them in the eye. To touch their hands. To say hello. Ask them how they are. We should acknowledge their humanity. Because sometimes, even the acknowledgment of humanity helps that person realize who they are. Now Bishop Tobin gives the opposite. He urges Christians not to give money directly to the poor, insisting that such a practice enables some dishonest professional panhandlers and sustains a very unhealthy, degrading way of life. Throwing some loose change at a panhandler while passing by is demeaning of his or her own human dignity. Our community has legitimate and structured means of helping the poor and the needy, and we should support those.

Well, he’s kind of right, too, right? So we have different approaches to how we can help the poor. We can help them directly. Hopefully, always with some personal encounter, or we can help them through some of the good institutions that are going on. But the important thing is that we help people when we see them. And when somebody calls out to us, when somebody reaches out to us, it should evoke some response in us. 

Now, if you’re somebody who works in the city, you probably walk by people like this all day long. And our hearts can become numb to that. Our hearts can become numb to the fact that they are real people. CS Lewis, who is a famous Christian author, there’s a kind of legendary story about him. He was walking with his friend down the street, and they were going to an inklings meeting. It would be a place where they would do like a book study. So they would all get together for this meeting, and they were walking down the street, and there was a beggar there. CS Lewis gave everything he had in his wallet to the beggar. His friend said to him,  Why did you just do that? Don’t you know he’s going to spend it on drinks? And CS Lewis answered and said yes, but if I had kept it, so would I. 

So what happens if the salt loses its taste? When you were made the salt of the earth, that happened at your baptism. Those waters were poured over you, and the words of the priest or the Deacon were spoken. I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You became holy. You became pure. You were washed and new in the baptismal waters. Well, we lose our purity by impurity.  We lose our purity by sinning. So whenever we sin or anytime, we are not who God calls us to be. We lose some of that saltiness he calls us to hang on to. And it’s a sad thing that he says. If salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?  I was a newly ordained priest. I’ve been ordained for 15 years. And people would always say to me, father, don’t lose your enthusiasm, father, don’t lose your enthusiasm. Father, don’t lose it. And I keep thinking, like, why are they saying this to me? And then 15 years later, it’s like, OK, Now I know why they were saying that, right? Or for those of you that were married, you know. You think back on your wedding day, maybe somebody said to you, I hope you love each other this much for the rest of your life. And you wonder, like, of course, you will, right? And then the years go on, and you think, oh, it’s gotten a little more difficult to love this person with all love. We are called to love. 

Three things can help us: the poor person on the side of the street, me and my priesthood, you and your marriage, or single life. Three things can help us to do that. One is to use prudence. One is to use compassion. And the third is to use your resources. So those are three things I want you to think about that. First is use prudence. We think about prudence, one of the virtues that God calls us to use. Sometimes it is prudent to interact with somebody. Sometimes it’s not prudent. If you’re a young girl, and it’s the middle of the night, and you’re walking alone, you probably don’t want to interact with somebody who comes up to you on the street. Sometimes it may be prudent to give money directly to that person, or to give them food, or to give them clothes, or to give them anything, gifts or gift cards, or certificates. Or maybe the prudent thing is to give money to the church, to give money to Catholic charities or Catholic relief services. To give in some way. The first is we are supposed to use our prudence. So when somebody asks us for help, we must use our prudence. Father, how do you want me to help them, and which way do you want me to help them? 

The second is compassion. We’re not just supposed to give people things like Pope Francis says. We’re not supposed to throw money at them and keep walking. We’re not supposed to just give them things, but compassion. So use compassion. Recognize that human dignity is in that person. No matter what they’ve done, no matter what they’ve squandered, they still have that human dignity. And the third is to use our resources. So you don’t have to be the one that saves that person. And you don’t have to be the sole person, but we can use our resources together. So there are homeless shelters that we can serve at. There are wonderful organizations that we can give our resources to. There are times for we to get involved in things like this. So it is important that we use our resources. Prudence, Compassion, and Resources. Everything good that’s ever happened to me, says one man, came to me out of helping others. So I think that’s how we keep our light shining, our salt salty. Everything good that’s ever happened to me came to me by helping others. So the next time somebody asks you to pass the salt, pass the salt.