Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sirach 27: 4-7 1 Corinthians 15: 54-58 Luke 6: 39-45
Have you ever said something that you wished you could take back almost as soon as it was out of your mouth? I have. Sometimes the regret arrives later, when I’ve had time to step back from the conversation, and from the “me” who was engaged in it. Oftentimes this occurs during moments of prayer and contemplation, those moments when being still in God’s presence allows me to “see.” Especially to see myself, my failings and faults.
Jesus’ teaching that every tree is known by its fruit, and that one’s speech reveals the content and motives of one’s heart echoes the Wisdom of Sirach. This Gospel Parable can seem like a motley string of different and dissonant metaphors: The blind leading the blind, the splinter in my neighbor’s eye and the huge wooden beam in my own, the tree and its fruit, the human heart and what flows from it in speech and action. Yet the message these disparate metaphors convey is one and cohesive. In fact, the metaphors themselves are not, as literary folks say, “mixed.” (As in the editorial injunction “Don’t mix your metaphors!”) Jesus’ metaphors in this Parable are all profoundly related, and I believe coalesce in “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” Quite simply, one blind to one’s own faults , and to the interior state of one’s heart, cannot “see” clearly enough to offer correction or guidance to another.
Elsewhere in Scripture, we are summoned gently to correct our brother or sister for their own good if we see them wandering from the path of discipleship that leads to the Reign of God. This is, in fact, where—like the blind leading the blind—I fall into a pit. Often it is precisely when I am speaking passionately about the way things “should” be, whether that be a just and inclusive society, or a just and inclusive church, that I say those harsh things about others that I wish I could take back. Whether regret arrives in the moment, or later during times of prayerful reflection, such regret, in leading to repentance, is a Divine grace. It is a gift from God, something that I cannot acquire on my own. In such moments, I am drawn back from arrogance to humility, to remembering my dependence upon God for my every breath, and my interdependence with all others living on our shared planet.
St. Paul urges us to see the present in the light of the future, precisely because of what has already been accomplished in the past. When we regret our words or our deeds, we come face to face with our sin, and this is graced self-knowledge. It is graced because God gives us the victory over sin and death through Jesus Christ, the first fruit of the resurrection life from which and in which we already live, even as we await its future fulfillment. In the meantime, all along our earthly journey, God continually brings us out to a place of freedom, because God delights in us, and has already saved us. May our hearts be full of the knowledge of God’s delight in us, and may our words and deeds more and more spring from that fullness.
Sr. Kathleen McManus, OP