WHAT YOU HAVE IS WHAT YOU GIVE

SUNDAY REFLECTION 8TH SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME OF THE YEAR C

Sirach 27:4-7, 1 Cor 15:54-58, Luke 6:39-45

                     


I welcome you to the 8th Sunday of ordinary time of the year. This is the last Sunday before the Lenten season. My reflection today will center mainly on the gospel which also has a little connection with the first reading from the Book of Sirach. In the First Reading today (Sirach 27:4-7), the writer tells us that as the fruit of a tree shows the care it has had, so does one’s speech disclose what is on the person’s mind and the passage goes on to instruct that it is wrong to praise someone before he (she) speaks. Also while addressing the crowd in the Gospel of Matthew (15:11-20), our Lord Jesus Christ declares that it is not what goes inside of a person that defiles the individual but what comes out from the heart where evil thoughts get their formation. The mouth, in turn, serves to let out the thoughts in words. From this description, we understand that the words that come out from our mouths are verbal expressions of our thoughts. The principle is that our words and works reflect accurately the condition of our spiritual heart in the same way that an X-ray or an MRI reflects the condition of our physical heart.  Our words and works make it clear what is in our hearts. So what you give is simply what you have. Let’s have a critical look at the gospel.

“Can the blind guide the blind? Won’t they both fall into a pit?”

In Matthew’s version of this saying, Jesus is speaking of the Pharisees as blind guides (Matthew 15:12-14), but here the application is more general. These are rhetorical questions. The first expects a “No” answer and the second expects a “Yes” answer.

Jesus often refers to the Pharisees as hypocrites. The word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word which means ‘actor’. An actor portrays a role that is different from his true self. He performs only for show, for other to see. In the spiritual life, when a person acts contrary to his beliefs and convictions, then he is a hypocrite, a spiritual actor. He may portray an image of holiness and piety, especially when inside the church. This is obviously to get the admiration and praise of people. But in his daily life, he is actually greedy and selfish. Then he becomes an abomination to the Lord. His worship is pointless, for God looks into the heart. He is just like the Pharisees and scribes whom Jesus condemned. The point of this first image is that we must be careful when choosing whom to follow lest we stumble into a pit alongside our blind guide. A corollary is that we have no business trying to guide others unless we ourselves can see clearly.

In the natural plane, this image also points to all who claim to know it all but they have nothing to offer. This is an important message to many who control our spiritual affairs, our financial affairs, our medical affairs, our family affairs etc to be deep rooted in their different fields before they come out to practice what they have learnt. What you have is what you can offer. If you are blindfolded in your fields you cannot offer anything tangible to the world. All you can offer is camouflage. Today many fake miracles, many fake anointing etc just to attract attention, if you are blind spiritually, you are blind spiritually. It can never be hidden, one day the truth will surface. Secondly, In this election period, if you elect illiterates, don’t also expect them to do miracles and wonders. They cannot give what they do not have.

No One Is Perfect

Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Why do you see the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how can you tell your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck of chaff that is in your eye,’ when you yourself don’t see the beam that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck of chaff that is in your brother’s eye”. I think this is a follow up to what Jesus said earlier on, in this chapter (Luke 6) in verse 37, Jesus warns against condemnation , he said “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven’. The problem with judging is that the person who sets him/herself up as a judge of another person’s imperfections is also imperfect. So no one is perfect. The one who points accusing fingers to others has his or her own imperfections.  Here also Jesus calls for self knowledge. One has be to aware of his own imperfections to understand the weaknesses of the other. Since Jesus does not condemn you, who are you then to condemn the other.

Each Tree Is Known By Its Own Fruit

A fruit is always a product of something. Here we are seen as trees. Our fruits depend on the type of trees we are. The first reading from Sirach corroborates this; whatever one says or does, is a sincere replica of what he truly is. The fruit of any tree is not hidden. You cannot see a mango fruit and think that it comes from an orange tree. Every tree produces its own kind. No one gathers figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush” A good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears either bad fruit or no fruit. “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings out that which is good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings out that which is evil, for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks” (v. 45) A fig tree bears figs, and a thorn bush bears thorns. A grapevine bears grapes, and a bramble bush bears brambles. Jesus states this self-evident principle to illustrate a parallel principle in our spiritual lives. A good person will always bear good fruits wherever you put him but a bad person no matter how holy he claims will bear bad fruits. By their fruits we shall know them. A man of God will always be an agent of peace, unity and Love, but a devils agent will is always known for his wickedness and jealousy and agents of discord. A good man will always want to help out and see that things are going well, but the other pretends but inside him or her, he does not want them. What you are is simply known by what you give to the world around you.

What you are is what you give. A blind man will always show those essential characteristics of blindness in whatever he does. For you to effectively direct those you lead ask for Gods wisdom and knowledge. Seek for more expertise within the areas of your endeavour. And seek to know God more so that you can give God to the world. No one is perfect, pay attention to your imperfections and correct them, ask God the grace to conquer your weaknesses so that you can lead people in love and not in condemnation. All of us have our own sins, weaknesses, and failures.  The Lord simply wants us to be reminded always of all these, so that we may avoid falling into the trap of misleading people.

Be a good tree so that goodness will surround whatever you do. All of us have our own sins, weaknesses, and failures.  Sometimes, we have the false feeling that we are better than others and we do not need any form of growth and improvement. It is on account of this faulty thinking that our Lord in the Gospel today (Luke 6:39-45), maintains that we notice the splinter in our brother’s eye but do not perceive the wooden beam (plank) in our eyes. This happens when we are quick to blame, criticize, judge and deride other people while making ourselves “saints” and unimpeachable. From our “plank-studded eyes” we don’t lie, steal, cheat, gossip, nor hate. It is always “the others” not “us”. Note this very well, judging others does not define who they are, it defines who you are! Life should be more about what God thinks about us. Instead of wasting time pointing out the mistakes and misdeeds of other people, There is a constant need to examine and re-examine ourselves to remove the wooden beams that block us from critical self-examination.