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Eight Sunday – Year C – Ordinary Time
Readings: Sir 27:5-8 (4-7); 1 Cor 15:54-58; Lk 6:39-45.
1/ First Reading: RSV Sirach 27:5 The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a man is in his reasoning. 6 The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so, the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind. 7 Do not praise a man before you hear him reason, for this is the test of men. 8 If you pursue justice, you will attain it and wear it as a glorious robe.
2/ Second Reading: RSV 1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
3/ Gospel: RSV Luke 6:39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.
I. THEME: Mouth only speaks what is full in one’s mind.
People can only examine things that happened outside, not like God, who knows thoroughly what is in one’s mind. Therefore, in order that we can evaluate a man, he must act out either in speaking or doing. Talk together with action is the surest way to convince a person.
Today readings pay attention to these two ways of expressions. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Sirach pays a special attention to words because they express one’s wisdom and character. In the second reading, St. Paul advised the Corinthians to believe what Christ Jesus revealed and witnessed about the resurrection. People are saved from dead, not by keeping of the Law but by their faith in Christ and practice what He taught. In the Gospel, Jesus teaches His disciples three wise, necessary and practical lessons for life: They must be wise and clear because they can lead others. They must know themselves so that they can recognize and correct their sins or shortcomings instead of waisting their time to criticize others. They must also practice virtues from inside before they can bear good fruits.
1/ Reading I: One’s character is revealed through words.
1.1/ There must be a conversation to know how good is a man: The author of the Book of Sirach used three familiar images with people to illustrate that we can only know clearly a man through what they spoke:
(1) “When a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so, a man’s filth remains in his thoughts” (Sir 27:4).
(2) “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a man is in his reasoning” (Sir 27:5).
Like a vessel is made by the potter, it must be tested by fire to know how good it is. The vessel will be used for a long time if the potter used mud at high temperature; a vessel is made at temperature will be easy to break. Similarly, when we have a conversation with a man, we shall know if his knowledge and wisdom are deep or shallow.
(3) “The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so, the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind” (Sir 27:6). When we taste the fruit of a tree, we know how the grower took a good care of the tree. Similarly, when we listen to a man talking, we know his degree of wisdom he possessed.
1.2/ Don’t praise anyone when he didn’t his mouth yet:
Like the idiom which said, “See the fruit, know the tree.” A bad tree can’t bear good fruits; and a good tree can’t yield bad fruits. The words which one speaks out is the result of what has been contained in his mind: The wise can’t speak out what is shallow and dull; in oppose, a shallow and lack of understanding person can’t speak out wisdom.
Many people like the ones who only speaks few words; but the author of Sirach cautions: Those who spoke little isn’t surely the wise ones since they have nothing to say. If we want to be sure, we must give them opportunities to speak: “Do not praise a man before you hear him reason, for this is the test of men.”
2/ Reading II: People are saved by their faith in Christ and by loyalty with their mission.
2.1/ The Law has no power to liberate people from death: In chapter 15 of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul explained in detail two questions: First, will the human body be resurrected? Second, if there is resurrection of the body, what our human body is looked alike? The first question is relatively easier to answer since we have the proof in Christ’s resurrection. The second question is difficult to answer because even Paul has no experience about the resurrection. There is only one sure thing which is: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Our body will have the Spirit of God, and we shall be like Him.
The Law, sin and death have a close relationship with each other. That is a reason why St. Paul said: “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” We can explain these two questions further as follows:
(1) The Law acts as the moralist: there must be a law before one commits sin. If there is no law, there will be no sin. The law reminds people which is a sin.
(2) The result of sin is death. One only needs to violate one serious sin, he shall be dead (Deut 30:15-16).
(3) Therefore, although the Law is good and comes from God; but it has no power to prevent people from death.
2.2/ We are saved by our faith in Christ and loyally doing what He teaches us.
This point St. Paul already explained clearly in the doctrinal section of his Letters to Galatians and Romans. In today section, he only said briefly: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Unlike the Letters to the Galatians and Romans which he divided into two clear sections: doctrinal and advise sections; these two sections are mixed together in his First Letter to the Corinthians. In today passage, he advised people: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” So, people are saved not only by their faith in Christ but also by works to demonstrate their faith. It is St. Paul himself who had shown that he not only believed in Christ, but also eagerly preached the Good News, was ready to endure all sufferings to witness for Christ and to fulfill the mission which Christ handled to him.
3/ Gospel: Learn to know themselves.
3.1/ The leader must be wise: This is a reality in life but not many recognize it. Parents must guide their children, but are parents wise enough to guide their children? The pastor must guide his flock, but is he wise enough to guide his sheep? Does he recognize his sheep who is needing his guidance? Jesus gives his disciples an image: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?”
How can one be a prudent leader? There are several things he needs to do:
(1) Must learn to know: No one can give to others what he doesn’t have. To work on any career, one must learn and be able to pass many tests and examinations; but the career of being parents is such important; but not many people want to learn and there is no one who gives out the license to guide children. Most people become parents involuntarily: they become parents when they have children!
(2) Must listen and learn from Christ: The most important source of wisdom are the Scripture and Christ’s revelation. This should be the first source which we must learn because no one has wisdom like God. Why don’t we learn from this source first, instead of searching answers from Googles, Dear Abby, Dear Ann Lander, or Dr. Ruth? We don’t deny human wisdom and experience, but they are only secondary source. If one has not enough time, he should come to the principal source to learn the truth before he can recognize falsities from the secondary source if they exist.
(3) Must have an overview about life to recognize the principal thing from many secondary things: If this is lacking, people shall pay attentions to little things and forget about the ultimate purpose of their life.
3.2/ Let terminate the habit of criticizing others: Most of holy men and women through generations advised people: “Know yourselves first.” When one becomes perfect already, then he can start to think about correcting others.
In today Gospel, Jesus also teaches his disciples: “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite! first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” When a person frequently examines himself, he finds out his many sins and shortcomings needing to be corrected. Many times, they are greater and heavier than others’ sins and they are ashamed when they criticize others. In opposition, those who don’t examine themselves frequently or not thoroughly, they feel they are better than others; therefore, it is easier for them to criticize and to condemn others.
3.3/ The tree gives its corresponding fruits: A Vietnamese idiom teaches, “Like tree like fruits.” Jesus teaches: “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil man out of his evil treasure produces evil; for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
In the process to become good, one must go through the following order:
(1) Beginning with knowledge: In order to act right, one needs to know the truth. God’s word is the truth which teaches people the way they must act. If one knows the wrong, he can’t act correctly.
(2) Must put the truth in action: One learned, he must put it in action; if he doesn’t act what he knows remain in theory and shall not bear fruits for him.
(3) Practice frequently will become virtues: St. Thomas Aquinas calls good habits as virtues and bad habits as sins. Once a person acquires a virtue, he also avoids a sin which is opposite with that virtue; for example, when a person had the virtue of humility, he also gets rid of the sin of pride. Jesus implies that: Both sins and virtues are hidden in man. When an opportunity comes, they shall appear. If there are only virtues in a man, they can’t do evil; in contrast, if there are only bad habits in him, he can’t do good things.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Words are the result of learning and a person’s character. We can recognize his wisdom and character by hearing his speech.
– God’s word is Christ. He comes to reveal to human beings God’s truth and love. We should believe and act according to Christ’s teachings.
– Leaders need to be wise and to know themselves in relation to God and to others. In order to be wise, we need to learn from God through Scripture and experiences which we collect in our life.