The Needle in the Haystack
The needle? It’s a challenge hidden in a common 2,000-year-old Palestinian courtyard that contained an earthen oven similar to those seen today in the American Southwest. Jesus seasoned his teachings with examples of daily life, and the salt of that quotation refers to the kind used in earthen ovens. Scripture scholar Dr. John Pilch says that while wood was scarce in semi-desert Galilee there was an abundance of donkey and sheep dung. That dung, shaped into patties and sun-dried, became ideal fuel to be ignited when hunks of rock salt were placed on top of it as a catalyst. In time, the rock salt’s fire capacity lost its ability to enflame, and being worthless was thrown out on the road.
There’s no shortage of manure today in our society! Hundreds of millions suffer unemployment, poor housing, lack of food and health care, while the wealthy few hide their money in tax havens. Allow the needle of the Palestinian salting of dung to pierce our aloof comfort of being mere spectators of the sorrows of the poor. Dr. Martin Luther King, when faced with the stinking dung of American racial discrimination, became a catalyst that set ablaze a social movement for radical racial and social change. You may feel too insignificant to make such change, but a spark—while only a small flash—can begin a blaze. Be such a small spark by donating to feed the hungry or serving in a food kitchen, and by voting for a candidate who supports the moral obligation of our government to care for our poor and less fortunate.
There is no shortage of dung in the Church either! The recently deceased Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan spoke of what many feel, “The Church is 200 years behind the times. Its rituals and ceremonial dress are pompous.” When you encounter the stench of manure in your local church, neighborhood or family, don’t hold your nose and ignore it. Become a pyromaniac catalyst who by flames of love and justice strives to bring some good out of the muck.