Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
"A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks". (Lk 6:45)
I think Jesus is a bit tough on the blind when he suggests that one blind person can't lead another without stumbling. Maybe in his period of time that was true but we have developed much to help the sightless or partially sighted and the seeing-eye dogs (a lovely term for guide dogs) are an enormous help and companion for those who rely on them. So, whilst the image is fairly blunt, it might not make the point as well as it could.
As for the teacher-pupil analogy, I know many of my own students who over the years have far out-surpassed me and are at the top of their professions where I am not. In one way that is the great joy of teaching at any level, to see the ones you share knowledge with, and have guided blossom and go beyond one. So I don't quite buy into that second image either, but when we come to those statements about planks in eyes and hypocrisy as well as trees bearing rotten fruit, then I do sit up and pay great attention.
Perhaps that is actually Jesus' way, for he never says we cannot disagree with him, nor ever suggests a good discussion with him is off limits. One of the ways of learning is precisely to debate and clarify issues by questioning and also to learn to disagree politely. But I can hear some of you asking; 'how on earth can we debate and argue with Jesus? Isn't he divine? . Maybe I can put it another way, if we take our faith journey seriously as adults, we know that at times we will need to question the certainties and childhood beliefs handed down to us, simply because they will not give us the right answer all the time. Then we seek help, a great thing to do is pray and discern carefully. We know that a good conscience is one of the most important parts of this process. Now that can only come to us if, as this Gospel says, we develop the store of goodness in our hearts.
How? It's all there in the Gospels. Love of God and neighbour as ourselves is the key to unlocking all those other commandments, but there is one more thing necessary, that one thing Jesus' often mentions, to seek God wholeheartedly. We also have as St Benedict tells his monks in the Rule, other guides, saints and writers who are able to help us discern the relationship forged in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is present in us and with us as gift, challenge and guide.
So I am glad that this Gospel made me argue a little with myself because it then made me look a little more into my own heart.
Lord, as we prepare for Lent, take from us the plank that blinds our inner sight from seeing your way, and open our hearts to hear your inner voice calling us to repentance and mercy. Amen
Rule of Saint Benedict Chapter 73
What page, what passage of the inspired books of the Old and New Testaments is not the truest of guides for human life? What book of the holy catholic Fathers does not resoundingly summon us along the true way to reach the Creator? Then, besides the Conferences of the Fathers, their Institutes and their Lives, there is also the rule of our holy father Basil. For observant and obedient monks, all these are nothing less than tools for the cultivation of virtues; but as for us, they make us blush for shame at being so slothful, so unobservant, so negligent. Are you hastening toward your heavenly home? Then with Christ's help, keep this little rule that we have written for beginners. After that, you can set out for the loftier summits of the teaching and virtues we mentioned above, and under God's protection you will reach them. Amen.
The Scale of Perfection
Any man or woman who neglects to maintain inward vigilance, and only makes an outward show of holiness in dress, speech, and behaviour, is a wretched creature. For they watch the doings of other people and criticize their faults, imagining themselves to be something when in reality they are nothing. In this way they deceive themselves. Be careful to avoid this, and devote yourself inwardly to His likeness by humility, charity, and other spiritual virtues. In this way you will be truly converted to God.
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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