FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)
Sirach 27:4-7 | Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 | 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 | Luke 6:39-45
On this final Sunday of Ordinary Time before the grace-filled season of Lent, the scripture offers us a foundation on which to build and plan our seasonal spiritual practices: Choose your words wisely for positive effect, celebrate Christ's victory over sin and death, and look in the mirror before correcting others’ mistakes.
Although most people don’t realize it, there is incredible force behind the words we use. In one breath we have the power to both build people up or tear them down. Alfred Nobel brought the world dynamite with the hopes that it would be used for clearing large rocks and other obstacles. On the morning of April 13, 1888, Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite, read the morning newspaper and was shocked to see his own obituary. What had happened was that an editor had made an error, confusing his brother's death with his own. The shock of the misprint was bad enough, but what was even more disturbing to Alfred was what the newspaper article said about his life. The headline said, "The merchant of death is dead" He was perceived as "the dynamite king" who had become wealthy through his discovery of explosives. That was all he was known for. The true purpose of his life, to break down barriers that separated peoples, was not even mentioned. Alfred was disappointed with how he would be remembered and he resolved to make clear to the world the true meaning and purpose of his life. Alfred would only live eight more years, but his last will and testament requested that his fortune of millions of dollars be used to create a series of prizes for those whose contributions greatly benefit mankind. The result is the most valued of prizes given to this day. We know them as The Nobel Peace Prizes.
The way we carry ourselves socially is important. This includes our choice of speech. Debates and forums allow voters to hear candidates' stand on key national issues. The issues in our country are many and the candidates must talk through them for the people to make an informed choice. Unfortunately, there are some candidates that refuse to participate in debates and forums. You may have heard the saying, "Action speaks louder than words". I am not necessarily disagreeing with that, but the Bible says that words speak loud enough by themselves. It is out of the overflow of the heart that the mouth speaks. It is the tongue that sets the body on fire. It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean, but what comes out of him. Today's reading from Sirach reminds us that we need to pay attention to our words as well. We get to know people by talking with them and listening to what they have to say. What's in one's heart comes out of one's mouth. Our words reveal our heart. The things we say, and how we say them expose and unveil the condition and attitudes of our heart. The discourses of the devout are marked with wisdom, but the conversations of the wicked with offense, swearing, cursing, quarrels and even bloodshed. Our speech say about what is in our heart. Good conduct can come out only of a good heart. Only a person whose heart is richly stored with good will bring forth good words. Listen to your topics of conversation during the day. Have you ever listened to what comes out of your mouth?
Successful businessman Phil, his loving wife Anlene, and his tyrannical mother-in-law went on a pilgrimage to Israel, Jordan and Turkey. While they were in Holy Land, the mother-in-law had a heart attack—a massive one and instantly passed away. An undertaker told them "You can have her shipped home for ₱252,450.00, or you can bury her here in Holy Land only for ₱7,572.75." Phil thought about it carefully and told him he would just have her shipped home. The undertaker asked "Your mother-in-law must have been really good to you. Why would you spend quarter of a million to ship your mother-in-law home, when it would be wonderful to have her buried in Jerusalem and only spend ₱7,572.75?" Phil said “Long ago a man died here, was buried here, and three days later he rose from the dead. I just can’t take that chance”.
Death carries with it a certain dread. Death stalks the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated. Death is no respecter of race, color or creed. Its shadow haunts us day and night. We never know when the moment of death will come for us. Christ has conquered death. The second reading is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. In his prophetic vision, the apostle Paul was making the words of the prophet Hosea (13:14) his own that the Lord will ransom his people from the grave. Sin was the cause of death. But death is swallowed up in the victory of Christ. Christ has already won the victory, so we have no reason to despair. The fact that Christ has conquered death has eternal consequences for us. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ we have the answer to the great question of the ages: “If mortals die, can they live again?” The Bible teaches that because Christ lives, we also shall live. Jesus didn’t come just to fix our problems, hurts and pains and difficulties. He came to give us new life. Yes, we die. Yes, we deeply mourn the loss of loved ones. But those in Christ do not remain dead. They are raised to a new and everlasting life. Can you think of more joyful news for a hurting heart?
In Islam, it is customary to remove one's shoes before entering a mosque, and Muslims remove their shoes before praying, whether in the mosque, at home or anywhere else. In addition, Muslims must wash their feet as well as hands, hair and face
before praying, a practice called wudhu. Abdul jawwad, a Moslem and Adriano, a Christian have maintained a good friendship since college regardless of their religious differences. Abdul jawwad, genuinely curious about his friend’s religion, asked Adriano one Sunday, "I didn't know what to expect when visiting a Catholic church. Can I come with you?" Without hesitation, Adriano replied, "No worries!” Upon entering the church building, Abdul jawwad started to remove his shoes. Confused, Adrian inquired, "Why do you do that?" "Respect. This is holy ground for you, isn't it?" Replied Abdul jawwad. "That's not necessary," Adriano answered smiling, "I suggest you wear your shoes inside. Do not leave them here or you will get your shoes stolen!" Abdul jawwad accepted his friend's explanation without question. Seeing the church was an absolutely incredible experience for Abdul jawwad, "The interior is amazing and beautiful!" He exclaimed. Adriano replied, "I am happy that you liked it. Can you also bring me to the mosque on Friday?" Feeling obliged to return the favor, Abdul jawwad said, "I'd love to, my friend!" The friends met on Friday in front of the mosque. Adriano said, "I am so excited!" He was about to enter the door when Abdul jawwad immediately stopped him saying, "My friend, this is holy ground. Please remove your shoes before entering the prayer hall." Confused, Adriano asked, "Is that really necessary? I might get my shoes stolen from the front door!" Abdul jawwad answered smiling, "Don't worry, my friend. There are no other Christians here!"
In our Gospel, Jesus teaches with humor and exaggeration to drive the disciples home. He said that disciples must learn before they can become teachers of others. He warns us not to fall into hypocrisy. Hypocrites correct others without correcting themselves. They must be able to see themselves clearly before they can point out the faults of others. We can be more credible in our corrections, when we ourselves are known to be living righteous lives. Nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child and vulnerable adult sexual abuse. Protecting minors and vulnerable adults is an essential part of the Church’s mission. These "clerical errors" of some clergymen needed to be denounced so they could be corrected, but we must do this with charity. Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero, fourth Archbishop of San Salvador, initially felt politics and faith must be kept apart. But the killings by military police of innocent people of faith, low-income workers and Jesuit priest Rutilio Grande led him to use his platform to condemn the government and call off the killings. He spoke directly to the military: “I want to make a special appeal to soldiers, national guardsmen, and policemen: each of you is one of us. The peasants you kill are your own brothers and sisters. When you hear a man telling you to kill, remember God’s words, ‘thou shalt not kill.’ No soldier is obliged to obey a law contrary to the law of God. In the name of God, in the name of our tormented people, I beseech you, I implore you; in the name of God I command you to stop the repression.” Apparently, men of violence could not accept that a man of peace should ask them to stop killing. He was assassinated while presiding at a memorial Mass in the Carmelite chapel of the Hospital de la Divina Providencia on March 24, 1980. His but has inspired millions, and his death and legacy pressurized the US government into changing position in South America somewhat. As religious people, we cannot stand by when we see injustice, just to remain impartial. We have to stand for people who can’t, and for a common humanity but we must do this, like Saint Óscar Arnulfo Romero, with charity. Without a doubt, Jesus definitely calls us to work with each other, speaking the truth in love, encouraging and admonishing. We have a responsibility for each other, and if we see sin we have to deal with it – Jesus says that too. But it’s our attitude, our motivation, it is the condition of our heart that really determines if we are building and discipling in love for the other person, or if we are just being judgemental. This passage reminds us to look at the fruit of our words and actions. If we are able to correct with love, we have borne fruit for the Lord. <enrique,ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum