February 27, 2022
Sir 27:4-7; Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 1 Cor 15:54-58; Lk 6:39-45
Our readings today continue to remind us that our own attitudes and behaviors have to be shaped by genuine righteousness before we can expect to have a positive effect on others. This is true in our families, our local communities, our churches, our nation and our global communities.
Last week in the Gospel we were commanded to “Stop judging and you will not be judged.” Only God can make moral judgments. Only God can read hearts. We were reminded that the Church offers an alternative to making moral judgments as with the Spiritual Works of Mercy. They include: admonishing the sinner, counseling the doubtful, and teaching the ignorant.
In today’s Gospel we see an even more direct relationship between ‘judging‘ and ‘teaching.’ Teaching in this biblical sense implies first learning from the Master. The Master is Jesus. “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.”
So, a disciple by their very nature is first a student and then a teacher. Recall that the disciples, and hence the Church, are sent to all nations to teach and to baptize them. (Mt. 28:18-19) The implication here is that the teaching should be so good that the students will want to be baptized. Baptism is never forced. When teaching includes a personal witness and when it starts with an understanding of the student’s perspective, it will be successful. Missionaries go into another’s territory and teach in their language and starting from the listeners’ cultural perspective. A reasonable person would respond positively to the true message and presence of Jesus Christ.
The main point of the readings today is to look squarely and courageously at our world views, our motives, our behaviors and the consequences they have brought about. The Book of Sirach reminds us that, “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.”
How often have we uttered in our daily speech the words Stewardship or Chastity? They are especially pertinent in our own country. Both terms are much deeper and comprehensive than we might normally suspect. Both help to guide and temper all the speech and behavior in our lives. Both terms are eloquently explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other working documents.
Chastity refers mainly to the interior life: unity of the person; self-mastery; self-knowledge; laws of growth; temperance. Stewardship in the deeper Christian sense reminds us that everything good comes from God and we are thus expected to share in proportion to what God has given us. This implies a radical interdependence between all people and actually all aspects of creation. Sustainable and peaceful living requires a careful attention to how we relate to persons and things, living and inanimate. Temperance and an ongoing pursuit of knowledge are necessary for stewardship.
The second reading today from 1 Corinthians exhorts us, “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
This is a particularly poignant consideration in our highly polarized political and social environment in the United States as well as the Church. ‘Remove the plank in our own eyes before picking away at the mere splinter in the eyes of the other.’ American politics is a black eye for all Americans. Our politicians and our political discourse is the fruit of our labors. Politicians are OUR offspring.
If our work has been ‘fully the work of the Lord, our labors will not be in vain.” That is, collectively, if we have formed our children to do the Lord’s work eventually they would be part of the governing bodies throughout our societies. We would have the capacity for a deeper and more honest conversation on any social and moral issues that we face as a modern people. Our influence as a democratic and powerful nation would indeed have a global reach. We would be a legitimate and convincing model for peace and stability rather than just a vehicle for disaster intervention.
Again from Sirach, “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.” Much of our modern tribulation is the sheer complexity of modern society and the diversity of peoples we attempt to accommodate. Our ‘pottery’, the things and people we form, do not hold up to the heat of the furnace of our modern world.
Did God lie to us?!! Is God even real? OR, is our work not fully the work of the Lord, and that is why our labors at peace and equity and harmony seem to be so much in vain?
IN a couple days, most of us will be back in Church wanting to be reminded that ‘we are dust and unto dust we shall return.’ This curious phrase always seems to arouse the hearts of more than just the usual church crowd. This is one of the most important phrases in our Catholic religion. We are dust and unto dust we shall return. We are mortal. We are not God. This is an excellent time of year for a personal, community and global reset. This time making our work fully the Lord’s work. Stay tuned for a variety of ways to examine our consciences and to remove the planks from our eyes.
Let us now continue on with the Eucharist and our proclamation to be people of God and peace and to ‘become one Body, one Spirit in Christ.’