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Ordinary Time 8 (C)
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Readings for the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

 

1. Sirach 27, 4-7

  • Ben Sira gives four short examples of human wisdom by comparing our daily work with the way we talk.  Since most of us work at desks, on the phone or by staring at a computer screen, I need to take my time as I read.  God is not mentioned, but that does not mean that God is not present.
  • It just occurred to me that my own reading of scripture can be put to these tests.  When we have trouble following someone’s reading or speech we begin to list their faults.  No one comes into this ministry without certain problem sounds, words and phrases.  I have my own, but I strive not to make them too obvious.  Let me not intrude upon the congregation’s openness to the Word.
  • Each comparison is made up of two parts.  First comes our daily work, and then the word so that compares it to our speech behavior.  I hear the words appear, disclose, and twice tested.  We expect that a lector or any public speaker will show her experience as she speaks, and though she may make small errors – we forgive her those because we have all stumbled – we become glaringly aware of certain deficiencies when she keeps repeating them. 
  • When a sieve is shaken the husks appear.  The example comes from baking.  If a candidate for office shows a lack of control in speaking, we learn something real about that person that may be just annoying or it may be disturbing. 
  • What the potter molds is in the furnace.  Some friends of mine have studied ceramic glazing, but the example comes from forming the ceramic itself out of clay.  Will it remain firm or will it shatter under the high temperature? 
  • The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had.  My wife’s rose bush gives plenty of roses because she prunes and feeds it.  Jesus also speaks in today’s Gospel of ‘figs growing from thornbushes.’  And if I skimp on my preparation or rehearsals, my reading will sound ragged or distracted.
  • Climax: Praise no man before he speaks.  I can create some inclusivity in this verse by stressing the two verbs – especially the second – in my best John Gielgud imitation.  And I recall the beauty pageants in which the front-runner stumbles during the question period.
  • Message for our assembly: We should not be afraid of revealing our true selves to others, but let our true selves be full of ‘goodness in our heart’ as Jesus says.
  • I will challenge myself: To make a strong connection between our familiar work routines and the ways we talk with others.

 

2. I Corinthians 15, 54-58

  • For many weeks we have listened to sections of this letter.  For over a month we have reflected upon the meaning of resurrection.  Today the reflection comes to a close with victory, a word the apostle repeats three times.
  • When this which is corruptible  This passage comes at the end of a complex discussion about resurrection.  To make matters more challenging, it begins in midstream.  I have two reactions.  First, that first long-winded verse conditions all that follows.  There is no victory until the change, the metamorphosis, occurs.  If the apostle had been a biologist he might have told the Corinthians that the caterpillar must turn into a butterfly.  Second, I need a deliberate Shakespearean style to render that verse in a way that the church pays attention.  The key word, the fulcrum of the sentence, is clothes.  Rehearse it ten or fifteen times!
  • The word that is written shall come about.  God is the master of speaking words that fulfill.  If we are God’s children, we should be speaking words that ‘come about’ – in other words, that make a difference.  The Bible, our faith as church, is justified whenever our words achieve real change in people and nations.
  • Where, o death?  This phrase is repeated twice.  I will not repeat it in an empty way, but build my taunt as Hebrew poetry would do.  Perhaps someone listening will remember that this passage deserves to be repeated at funerals.  We have no reason to be fearful of death.  [Another approach, such as James Weldon Johnson’s Go Down Death, turns death into an obliging friend.  That is not the apostle’s message, however.]
  • Thanks be to God who gives us the victory – through our Lord Jesus Christ.  I will emphasize ‘God’ and ‘Jesus.’  Yes, we do win but not on our own.  God wanted it so.  Jesus is the proof.  That is the reason why we give God the glory in everything including this.  I remember that Christians used words like ‘falling asleep’ instead of death.   
  • Climax: Death is swallowed up in victory.  This short piece of a resurrection song from the first generation after Jesus should encourage us.  Many composers have set it to music, including Handel in his Messiah.  Let them inspire me today.
  • The message for our assembly: We overhear the final verse and understand that it also applies to us.  Be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord.  We are going to win, so let the world regard us as winners!
  • I will challenge myself: To be equal to the challenge the apostle left me.  The mysteries of our faith are as broad as the cosmos.  Am I ready?

 

Gospel. Luke 6, 39-45

  • This passage concludes the ‘Sermon on the Plain’ that we will hear in assembly.  I hear two basic themes, and both of them are lessons every church must learn.
  • Can a blind person lead a blind person?  The Gospels are full of comparisons between being blind and seeing.  I will make it clear that Jesus is talking about persons who are spiritually blind.  Do we know who is who?
  • Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye?  The language is stark and uncompromising.  Three times we hear about someone else’s ‘splinter’ and our own ‘wooden beam.’  Let me build; let my listeners remember the contrast.
  • A good tree does not bear rotten fruit.  People do not pick figs from thornbushes.  There are certain rules of nature, and humans are no different.
  • Central theme: Every tree is known by its own fruit.  We cannot fake it!
  • Message for our assembly: Are we willing to listen and return to a life of love?
  • I will challenge myself: To avoid trying to improve on the Master.  I only ask for a clear voice today. 

 

From Word to Eucharist: Let us remove all pretensions.  The church – indeed, the world – can smell them 20 miles away.  Let us come to the Lord with humility and honesty.

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