Scripture Readings, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sirach 27:4-7

1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Luke 6:39-45

The Gospel of Luke (6:39-45) reads like a disconnected series of separate sayings of Jesus. We are used to reading parables of Jesus’ miracles, but to have passages of the Gospel where it is just different sayings of Jesus without an apparent connection between them seems a little strange. Maybe St. Luke gave us this “list” because Jesus spoke them on different occasions and the Gospel writer wanted us to have a compendium of Jesus’ rules for a way of living.

Maybe Jesus preached them once just as it appears written in the Gospel. There is a way of preaching in the Jewish tradition called “Charaz,” for which the literal translation is “stringing beads” or “stringing pearls.” This way of preaching tells us that the preacher must not linger more than a few moments on phrases or on any topic but, in order to maintain the interest of the listeners, the preacher must move quickly from one topic to another, giving us the impression of not being closely connected together. But, if one wants to find the connection between these thoughts, he can find “a string” that puts all the “pearls” together.

So let me suggest that the string that connects all these sayings together is Jesus giving us some rules for living. The first rule is because we cannot be “superior” to our teacher, we therefore must seek only the best teacher, for only he can lead us; so, we can be the disciples of Jesus because he is the only one who has the “words of eternal life.” Anybody else is just a blind person guiding another blind person.

The second rule is that we have no right to put down other people for their faults because we have faults ourselves. We all need God’s mercy and forgiveness because we are all sinners. The Lord is calling us not to live double lives, but first that we seek our own conversion, our own holiness, our own moral virtuous life before asking others to be holy.

The third rule is that we are judged by our “fruits” — by the way we live and serve others. Here we can say that character precedes action: a person’s deeds reveal the state of the heart. There should be harmony between what we believe and how we live our lives daily. I think this is very relevant today. I think some Catholics come to church on Sunday but during the weekday they hide their faith. They act like Jesus is not the center of their life because he is not. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki once said in a homily that if the Church is persecuted and we are brought in front of a judge to condemn us for being Catholic, would the judge find enough evidence of our faith by the way we practice it daily? Good question!

The fourth rule is “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” The words that are on our lips are the analysis of what’s in our hearts. Let me say that nothing shows the state of a person’s heart so well as the words they speak when they are not carefully thinking. Think about when you are talking with close friends, how many times our speech is not prudent, or pure, or loving, or worthy of a believer. Many times in my life I surprised myself with what comes out of my mouth, sometimes they are good surprises, other times they are not good surprises at all.

I play soccer (or at least try; I am not that good) on Sunday evenings. A few weeks ago, for the first time in my life, I received a red card. I was on the bench, and I saw how the referee missed a fault in our favor. Then I started to yell at the referee, asking him if he was blind. He stopped the game and gave me a yellow card, but I did not stop yelling at him and calling him blind (I did not use curse words), then I got the red card. After the game, back in the rectory’s chapel, I started to reflect on why I yelled at the referee. Why was I so frustrated about his mistake even though it was not a big deal? Talking with my spiritual director, I discovered that my heart started to be filled with frustrations, stress, negativity, selfishness, impatience, etc., and that’s what came out of my mouth against that poor referee who was just doing his job. So, I am paying more attention to my speech to see what I am allowing to fill my heart.