8th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2019 – Year C

3 March 2019

Sirach 27.4-7
1 Cor 15.54-58
Luke 6.39-45

There is a story about a scorpion that wants to cross a river. It chances upon a turtle and wastes no time in asking to be carried across on the latter’s back. “How do I know that you won’t sting me?” asks the turtle. “I solemnly swear that I won’t do that to my benefactor” replies the scorpion. Reassured the turtle carries the scorpion on its back. When they reach the opposite bank, the scorpion stings the turtle. As it lays dying the turtle mournfully asks, “why did you do that?” I could not help myself, replies the scorpion. “It is my nature to sting”.
We human beings are not governed solely by instinct. We have the ability to choose and act according to how we see things and according to what motivates our conduct. In our world today there are many voices calling out to us to listen to them. There is the voice of consumerism – the more you have the happier you will be; the call to find happiness in drugs, drink or sex etc. The question is: who will guide us?
As Christians we say that we are disciples of Jesus and that he is our Guide and Teacher. Is this reflected in our lives? Is there a real correspondence or transparency between what we say we believe and how we live our lives? Just as a good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree bad fruit sooner or later this will become evident. We may fool others, we may try to fool God and even ourselves. But sooner or later people will see us for what we are.
The gospel is telling us that Jesus Christ is the only true guide and teacher who can lead us to a lasting peace and joy here and now. However there is no guarantee that someone claiming to be a Christian religious leader can do this if he isn’t truly a disciple of Jesus, lives according to his teachings and follows his example.
Jesus criticizes most of the Pharisees for being hypocrites – that their religion is only an outward show, they do not practise what they preach. They were mainly interested in the best places in public and making a show of empty prayers.
The essence of what Jesus came to teach us is the law of love and service of others. And so in the gospel he also tells us that if we notice the splinter in our brother’s eye and fail to see the plank in our own we are hypocrites too. This attitude reveals us as to who we really are.
I know a man who truly loves his wife. Like any of us she has many talents but also a number of failings. I never heard him criticise her for any of these failings. Why? Because he loves her. Love doesn’t dwell on failings and very often doesn’t even see them. The more we criticise and condemn we are revealing ourselves for who we really are.
Normally it is a lack of true love that notices and focuses on other peoples’ failures. Then of course we don’t have to acknowledge our own. What we condemn a lot in others is most probably something in ourselves that we don’t see or refuse to acknowledge. The Good News is that Jesus knows us through and through and loves us as we are. He doesn’t condemn us but in the gospel today he is challenging us to examine ourselves to see if we are honest with ourselves. Does our external behaviour match what we claim is our inner belief system? If we claim to be Christian do we genuinely try to live it out in practice? Jesus challenges us to follow his way of thinking and acting, as it alone will give lasting happiness.
“Lord, if I am honest with myself my actions and words do not always reflect what I say I believe as a Christian. Help me to see where the inconsistencies are in my life so that with the aid of the powerful Holy Spirit I can live the truth more fully and witness to others that ‘you alone have the message of eternal life. Lord to whom else shall we go for help? May we allow you to be our Guide and Teacher.”