ARE WE DIFFERENT FROM OUR MASTER?
HOMILY FOR THE EIGHT SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR C. Readings: Sirach 27:4-7; Psalm 92; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 and Luke 6:39-45.
Back then in my novitiate year, our novice master customarily would say, “A novice is properly formed when he behaves like his master.” The likely questions ensuing are these: are the words and actions of the master a true and good example for the novices? Are there conflicts of identity as regards what is preached and practiced? Today’s liturgy gives a wise counsel on what it takes to be like the Master.
The first reading from the book of Sirach tells us, “The fruit discloses the cultivation of the tree; so the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind. Do not praise a man before you hear him speak, for this is the test of men” (Sirach 27:6-7). This reminds me of the philosophy of mind that man is a composite being of physical and mental (spiritual) activities. The mental are the non-observable activities of man, which remain private and are inaccessible to other persons. While the physical is responsible for the observable activities. Philosophers like Leibniz will say, “Words are the best mirror of the human mind.” To have idea of the thought of man, it is pertinent we listen carefully to him and critically analyze his words. His words give a picture of the inner self just as the fruit discloses the cultivation of the tree.
In the gospel, Christ began with the parable of the blind man leading a blind man; then the persons who seek the speck in other people’s eye but do not notice the log in theirs and a progression of the good tree bearing good fruits and bad tree bearing bad fruits. He said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor a bad tree bears good fruits; for each tree is known by its own fruit” (Luke 6:44). With this principle, a good person produces good and an evil person evil. Our actions are outward expressions of our inward being. Like an X-ray, our words and actions reflect what is in our hearts, “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v.45). The person who uses vulgar words that wound the other does not have a communication problem but ‘heart’ problem. The heart of such a person is spiritually sick.
This sickness could also be vices, which keep us blind to our weaknesses and make us judgmental of others. This is common among religious fundamentalists who have the “holier than thou” attitude. We see ourselves as more righteous than others who know how to do it best. We often forget that the person who seats as judge of another’s imperfections is also imperfect. It is a case of the imperfect judging another imperfect person and on a similar note, Christ asked, “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (v.39). Christ does not intend that we go through life blindly accepting all that we see or hear. Further he said, “A disciple is not above his teacher but everyone when he is fully taught will be like his teacher” (v. 40). Being like the teacher is to ask at every situation, what will Jesus do? What will Jesus say? This can help us become more like Jesus. Importantly, while verse 39 indicates that the disciple must have a clearer vision than the person he/she seeks to lead, the subsequent verse indicates that the disciple will never rise above the master/teacher (Jesus). At best, the disciple will come to be like the teacher, which should be the goal of every disciple. On this note, I grasp better the saying of my novice master, “A novice is properly formed when he behaves like his master.”
Being like Christ is to live above sin and St. Paul in the second reading tells us that the sting of death is sin and Christ has swallowed up death in victory. “Therefore, we must always abide in the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, our labour is not in vain” (1Cor. 15:58).
Dear friends in Christ, there are so many preachers today whose lives do not conform to the gospel. Their identity as Christians conflicts with their actions and words. What we need now are people whose words and actions match with the DNA of Christ. People who are slow to judge and condemn others but quick to love and show mercy because in Christ, God has overcome sin and death.
Fr. Ken Dogbo, OSJ