8th SUNDAY(C) MARCH 3, 2019
By Jude Siciliano, OP
The Book of Sirach (also known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus) is a collection of ethical savings. Its teachings are applicable to various groups of people: young, old, single, married, rich and poor, etc. Sirach’s wisdom is expressed in precise formulas and images, often given in proverbial forms. Today’s passage is from a larger context which gives advice about what constitutes and tests good and bad character (26:9-27).
The reading contains three sayings (vv 4-6) which climax in the verse, "Praise no one before they speak, for it is then that people are tested." Sirach is advising and encouraging us to apply thoughtful reasoning in our discussions with others. Our prejudices and deceptions are challenged because, "One’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind."
In today’s gospel passage Jesus is coming to the end of what, in Luke, is called the "Sermon on the Plain" (parallel to Matthew’s "Sermon on the Mount"). He has instructed his disciples to love their enemies, turn the other cheek, treat others as they would want to be treated, not judge them, etc. Now he gives three brief and challenging parables. As in our Sirach passage, Jesus is the wise person teaching his disciples a practical wisdom for their lives as disciples.
The first parable (vv 39-42) calls the disciples to examine themselves. We have responsibilities to teach and guide others. But before we can do that, we must address our own faulty sight – the "log" in our own eye. In other words, we must be self-critical. If we are, then we can guide others on Christ’s path. Attempting to help another remove the speck from their eye might just be a way of avoiding an honest look at our own shortcomings.
In many ways, we are teachers: we train our children in the faith; volunteer to teach religious education; are mentors for baptismal candidates and returning Catholics in our parish’s RCIA program. Or, we simply respond to a friend’s inquiry about what we believe and why we do what we do. We are not perfect Christians and so these roles require a certain humility on our part as well as an ongoing attempt to "see" more clearly. Sight comes to disciples in many ways: faithfulness in prayer, reflection on the Scriptures, seeking counsel for problematic issues in our lives; ongoing study, etc. Will we have perfect spiritual sight? Probably not, but coming to see is a process that must be a disciplined part of our lives as we try to guide others in the ways Jesus has just spelled out in his sermon.
Jesus’ second parable proposes that good fruit comes from a good tree. There is no emphasis here on what we must do to produce good fruit. A good person will, as by second nature, bear good fruit.
Haven’t we known people who, by how they treat others and respond to difficult situations, set an example for us and challenge us to imitate their Christian response to daily life? Eucharist is a prayer of thanksgiving. In our worship today we might recall and give thanks for those, who from our past and present, have shown us how to live Jesus’ "Sermon on the Plain." They are proof that quite ordinary people can put into practice the life Jesus proposed to his disciples. Their witness of Christian living also shows us what Jesus makes possible for us through the gifts of his Holy Spirit.
In his last brief parable Jesus says, in summary, a person’s words and actions will reveal their character. A person of good heart will do good; an evil person will do evil because, "from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks." We Christians are in a lifelong process of renewing and orienting our heart. We were reminded of that again today, as we began our Eucharist by asking for mercy. Jesus has modeled for us the life he calls us to imitate. But on our own we cannot live what he has set before us in his sermon. That’s why, after receiving mercy at the beginning of our Mass, we are enabled to live the Christian life by the life-giving Word we heard and the food we receive from the table – the very presence of the one who both teaches and enables us to live his life in the world.
In his Sermon on the Plain Jesus is forming his disciples. They, in turn, will be the guides and teachers for others. The spirituality Jesus is teaching is not just meant for the enlightenment and behavior of the individual. God’s love is effective, it produces good fruit for the benefit of others. The good we do becomes a way to spread the faith to others. Jesus sends us to be witnesses to the faith we profess – to practice what we teach and preach. His words today show his concern for the integrity and quality of our lives. We cannot, he says, teach others if we ourselves are not witnesses to what we teach.
Are we good listeners? Perhaps we need to pay attention to what those closest to us tell us about the quality of our compassion, patience and docility. Are we people of justice, sensitive and responsive to the least? Do we claim to accept Jesus’ teachings, but don’t reflect them by the fruit of our lives? Remember, Jesus was most critical of the observant Pharisees who did not have compassion for the very ones with whom Jesus shared his table.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/030319.cfm
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
When a sieve is shaken the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.
--Sirach 27: 4
In Chapter 27 of today’s Reading 1, Sirach notes how the pursuit of justice is made more difficult by contrariness in one’s speech. We have all experienced it. A family dinner or water cooler conversation that suddenly turns hot with opposing viewpoints. Your reaction may be one of anger or silence. Challenged to live as Jesus, we must take steps to ensure that our speech and actions consistently show forth Christ, who seeks to bear fruit in us. Listed below are "10 Principles for Debate" from Catholic Voices-www.civilizeit.us
1. Don't get mad, reframe. Look for the positive intention -- challenge a prejudice or preconception. There’s often a Christian value at the heart of a criticism. Speak to it.
2. Shed light, not heat. We’re here to open doors. We’re the Peace Corps, not the Marine Corps.
3. Think in threes. Don’t be distracted. Have three points and know how they relate to one another. Go back to them again and again.
4. People won’t remember what you said as much as how you made them feel. Aim for civility, empathy and clarity. We aim to be the "joyful messengers of challenging proposals" that Pope Francis calls us to be.
5. Show, don’t tell. Stories are compelling. Run with what you know. Stay in your lane. "Think of yourself not as the spokesman of a remote corporation, but as a delighted disciple with stories and experiences to share."
6. Remember to say "Yes." Offer the fullest freedom the Church proposes.
7. Compassion counts. Be ready to absorb anger and hurt.
8. Numbers aren't everything. A fact is meaningless without content and perspective.
9. It is about witnessing, not winning. You’re not there to win a debate, but to witness to the love at the heart of our faith.
10. It is not about you. It is about Jesus. It is His Church you represent.
(These are adapted from Kathryn Jean Lopez’s and Austen Ivereigh’s "How to Defend the Faith without Raising Your Voice," published by Our Sunday Visitor)
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said: "A good person out of the store of goodness in their heart
produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil,
from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks."
Our individual hearts need tending. Our church heart needs attention as well. For example: our church communities do not always produce the good fruits of mutual forgiveness; we can be judgmental towards non-members; we may not communicate hospitality to the outsider and marginalized, etc.
So we ask ourselves:
ONE GOOD BOOK FOR THE PREACHER
THE TREASURE OF GUADALUPE, edited by Virgilio Elizondo, Allan Gigueroa Deck and Timothy Matovina. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, Inc. 2006.) Paper, 134 pages. ISBN 978-0-7425-4857-2.
Noted preachers, pastoral leaders and thinkers share with us homilies and meditations on the rich Guadalupan tradition. People from various ethnic backgrounds will find these reflections helpful. They are not meant for direct use, but as resources to inspire, preachers, catechists, teachers and others in a tradition that has nourished so many of our Mexican brothers and sisters who have brought their faith into our midst. The treasure that awaits us in this book is to discover an authentic Christian faith that is rooted in the soil of the Americas.
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
"First Impressions"is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at email@example.com.
If you would like to support this ministry, please send tax deductible contributions to fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert Priory 3150 Vince Hagan Drive Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Make checks payable to: Dominican Friars. Or, go to our webpage to make an online donation:http://www.PreacherExchange.com/donations.htm
1. We have compiled Four CDS for sale:
If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group, or are a member of a liturgical team, these CDs will be helpful in your preparation process. Individual worshipers report they also use these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:www.PreacherExchange.com and clicking on the "First Impressions" CD link on the left.
2. "Homilías Domincales" —These Spanish reflections on the Sunday and daily scriptures are written by Dominican sisters and friars. If you or a friend would like to receive these reflections drop a note to fr. John Boll, O.P. atJboll@opsouth.org.
3. Our webpage: www.PreacherExchange.org - 1rãWhere you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes "First Impressions" and "Homilías Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies and other material pertinent to preaching.
4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736