Sister Karen Joseph will never be “the salt shaker that just sits on the table.” And she doesn’t want you to be, either.
That’s a line in one of her signature presentations — “Be Salt! Be Light! Be Fully Alive!” — that she has given to numerous audiences around the world.
She begins with her fascination with a 1973 movie, “Lost Horizon,” in which a few plane crash survivors find the remote village of Shangri-La. The village’s dying leader talks of a pitiful, maddening world, and tells a survivor he has been brought to Shangri-La to guide the footsteps of a weary people, with the hope that Shangri-La’s communal love will spread throughout the world.
The village’s way of life is based on one simple rule: Be Kind.
Sister Karen says to her audience, “That’s my hope for our monastery up on that hill in Ferdinand. That we could be that reservoir of hope for our world. We might be able to do that in our lifestyle, to make such a difference. You all have an enormous impact on your family, co-workers, and friends in the way you live your daily life.”
Her speech is full of thoughts on how we can be what we’re truly called to be – Christians.
Give of yourself for the good of others. Live with forgiving hearts, and with joy. Show each other the love of Christ. Christian life is a blessing to be shared. How we live our lives daily matters. Sometimes it takes all we have to be kind to someone who drives you absolutely crazy, but we need to do it. We can be that reservoir of hope.
But Sister Karen emphasizes, “Hope demands action and commitment. Hope without action is simply wishing!”
So she often punctuates her talk with a call to action: “Get on with it! Let’s get on with it!”
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. The essence of salt is its action. By itself it has no purpose. So, does my presence bring energy to those around me? Or am I all doom and gloom? Our mission on behalf of God’s reign is to be the salt of the earth: to prevent its decay, and bring life where death threatens. We have to interact with one another. That’s how we learn to truly be disciples. Keeping God present in your life keeps your salt fresh. And the light that you have comes from faithfulness to prayer. Jesus showed us the way. The Gospel is our passion. As Saint Benedict says, the Gospel is always our guide, the source of our good zeal. And now we need to do it. Christian lives involve us daily in building the reign of God. All we do should contribute to that end and unify in making us one.
“Let’s do it with joy and compassion and all the passion of our spirit. Let’s do it until our last breath. Give it all we’ve got. Why are we holding back? If we live our lives well, we truly can be that reservoir of hope.”