Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
For the last two weeks, we have been hearing from Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Plain. As Luke reaches the end he makes some concluding statements. I would like reflect on just one of them. Luke says, “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher” (Lk 6:40). Who the teacher? Jesus! Who must the disciple become like? The teacher! Who is the teacher? Jesus!
Today’s scripture readings point out to three areas where we might consider becoming like the teacher.
1. Speech and Words. In today’s first reading taken from the book of Sirach, the author says: “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one's faults when one speaks” (Sir 27:4). And again, “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind” (Sir 27:6). In other words, words are not mere words. Our words are the indicators of our thoughts, our character, our inner self. As Jesus says in today’s gospel: “… from the fulness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45). How many times have I said, “I didn’t mean what I said.” But by then, it is too late. And then, we look at our teacher. What were Jesus’ words like? What kind of message did he speak? Did his words ever contradict his conduct? There is a good news and a challenge here. The good news is simple. God expects nothing short of us than the best. The challenge is also simple. God expects nothing short of us than the best – to be like Jesus in our speech. This week let us evaluate our speech. Our speech – does it build up or tear down? Do it encourage or condemn? Do we gossip or are we honest? Do we spew filth with the same tongue that also receives the Body and Blood of Christ? What does our speech reveal about ourselves? “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will talk like his/her teacher.”
2. Hypocrisy v/s Integrity. The one quality that Jesus warned his disciples against was hypocrisy. Instead, Jesus demanded integrity from them. He warned them against hypocrisy because nothing destroys the church more than hypocrisy. The child abuse crisis should among other things, teach us that. All of us, to some extent suffer from hypocrisy. What is it about us that we always want to change others before we change our own lives? What is it about us that we like to give advice to others but do not practice it ourselves? What is about us that we like remove the speck from other’s eyes while we have a plank in our own? Last week, I was conducting a retreat on discipleship in Milwaukee. Somebody asked me a question. She asked, “But how do we try to convince those who are resistant? How do we change those who will not listen?” My answer was simple. The best way to change others is to change is ourselves first. The best way to convince others is to genuinely work on our own lives and become more like Christ. Today, Christ is inviting us to address the hypocrisy within. Rather a disciple must be a person of integrity. “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple’s integrity will be will be like his/her teacher.”
3. Bearing Good Fruit. In both the first reading and the gospel reading there is tremendous emphasis on bearing good fruit. The reason we hold Christ in such high regard, and the reason we worship him, is because his life bore the ultimate good fruit. In fact, Christ is called the “first fruit of creation,” meaning, he is the best of the rest of creation and humanity. Christ’s life bore such good fruit that he led all of humanity to salvation. Our life must only bear good fruit. A disciple bears the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. On the contrary, our lives can also generate hate, division, selfishness, and injustice. “No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will bear the same fruits as his/her teacher.”
As we receive Christ in the Eucharist today, let us ask him to transform us from within. Having been transformed, may we bear good fruit – in thought, in speech, and in fruits.
- Fr. Satish Joseph