Mar. 2, 2019

EIGHTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2019

BY THEIR FRUITS WE SHALL KNOW THEM

Readings: 1st- Sirach 27:4-7; 2nd- 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Gospel- Lk. 6:39-45

Let us divide the message of the gospel of today into three parts. Let’s call them the three challenges for our Christian life:

1). Leadership and the power of speech

2). Judgment

3). Result

Each of these categories kicks off with an interesting provocative as presented by Jesus in the parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye, but not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.” 

Beginning with the first reading, the image of the tree is used by Ben Sirach to draw analogy between internal condition and external expressions of what lies within the individual. According to Sirach, “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind” (Sirach 27:6-7). Speech is powerful and can be used to assess a person’s character. Speech flows from inside. It expresses a person’s mind. Sirach reminds us that we are like the tree planted in the orchard whose products tell about the quality of the orchard. Either we produce healthy fruits or rotten fruits. 

Saint Paul presents us with the theology of the resurrection which anchors on victory of life over death. The physical is corruptible. The spiritual is incorruptible. As mortal as we are, we are ultimately the fruits of immortality. Recognizing that we transcend mortal flesh provides us with hope in a future life. Death can only threaten our mortality. For St. Paul, the mortally doomed is the sinner because sin cuts us off from eternal life. Sin leads to death. Hence Paul echoes, “The sting of death is sin.” But we belong to immortality through the death and resurrection of Christ. We are victorious over sin because Christ has redeemed us from death. We no longer bear fruits of sin but of righteousness in Christ Jesus. Death has lost its power in us. Saint Paul urges us to be firm and steadfast with the conviction that our labor will not be in vain in the Lord. Our work will bear fruit of eternal life which is the greatest victory over sin and death.

In the gospel, Christ speaks about the blind person’s inability to lead another blind. Literally, we know how true this is. Someone who’s blind cannot guide another blind person like a person with complete sight would, else they trip. Jesus’ image depicts the responsibility bestowed upon those in authority and in leadership positions. For instance, those who teach others must be informed correctly. Those who lead God’s flock must be worthy of emulation. Those who instruct children and the youth must show good examples. Those who govern in politics must be sincere and transparent. If these leaders do not provide exemplary leadership, their followers may dwindle and sink into moral and spiritual darkness. 

The second challenge in the parable is about judgment. Christ says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” This is common with human beings, right from the time of Adam. It is easier to talk about the spirituality of my neighbor than mine. It is easier to talk about my wife/husband’s bad attitude than mine. It is easier to cast blame on others because we are mostly inclined towards judging others. We see other’s fault too quickly. “She does this or that.” “He doesn’t do this or that.” Such is the human way. We condemn. We pick out defects. We examine other people’s consciences. We want to clean others up whereas we carry our dirt in a hidden and protected body. We wouldn’t talk about our filth. Christ calls us “hypocrite!” That’s exactly how the Pharisees behaved. They were very good in calling people out for their sins while living in denial. It is important today to do some self-reflection and find out what we need to clean up inside ourselves, then we can adjust properly to clean others up. The wooden beam blurs your vision to remove what is in the other person’s eyes. Here is what Saint Paul says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 

So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:1-4). 

The third challenge is Christ’s remark, “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Continuing from the preceding argument, the type of judgment we pass shows how much of who we are. The kind of judgment we pass tells about our inner disposition. Our mouth speaks mercy if our hearts contain mercy. Our mouth proclaims peace if we have peace within us. While growing up, some of us are brought up in unfriendly environments while some are brought up in friendly caring environments. Some individuals grow up not knowing what it means to receive care and support. Some never heard the words, “I love you” from their primary caregivers. Some never knew what it meant to empathize or show compassion. Some never knew what it meant to feel with those in pain. There are some who don’t understand what it means to show mercy. Such individuals will hardly show mercy, compassion, and care to those around them. Their words portray internal brokenness. Individuals who experience disruption usually express same in different ways. Individuals who experience love and mercy usually express love and mercy. Christ says, “For every tree is known by its own fruit.” 

Today, as Christians, we are called to bear fruits that show our Christian environment. We are manured each day with the word of God. We take in love, truth, justice, compassion, holiness, and forgiveness. We store up these fruits inside ourselves. We are fed with the Bread of Life in the Blessed Eucharist. We should in turn bear such fruits that bring life to others. Let us not bear rotten fruits of sin and negativity. Let us not be blind leaders in our homes, offices, and relationships. Let us bring life to those around us. The good news is that we are called to the life that transcends the physical. We belong ultimately to immortality. We have the power to conquer sin and death. We bear the fruit of life.