Sunday, February 27, 2022: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel – Luke 6:39-45
Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.
“Why do you notice the splinter in your neighbor’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your neighbor, ‘Friend, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your neighbor’s eye.
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
March 2 – this coming Wednesday – Ash Wednesday.
This week’s Gospel and the past three week’s Gospels seem to be a Lenten invitation to ask ourselves “do my actions reflect my espoused beliefs and values?”
On a continuum from “never to sometimes to often to always” where do I put my X?
In a nanosecond of reflection, I know I vacillate between sometimes and often. Maybe some can respond “always,” but I’m guessing not. Lent seems a good time to look again at Jesus’ words, teachings and actions to remind ourselves that he has lots to say about how to be our best selves.
For me, each of the three of this Sunday’s readings has something to offer as we begin Lent. Sirach directs our attention to our speech. “The fruit of the tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.” Questions to ask may be: “To whom do I speak? About whom? For whom? Against whom?”
(Years ago, I came upon a question that often comes to mind – sometimes not soon enough. “Will what I am about to say improve upon the silence?”)
Paul encourages us not to lose heart as we continue our journey – a journey not to perfection but to falling into God’s unconditional love. “Be firm, be steadfast, always devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Paul acknowledges we get discouraged; we can be down on ourselves because we don’t always live up to our expectations for ourselves. In those moments of disappointment, Paul’s words reassure us we do not “labor in vain” because God loves us no matter what “we have done or failed to do?” We can’t fall out of God’s love no matter how hard we try. How many times have we heard, “nothing can separate you from the love of God.” Believing this may take more than the 40 days of Lent!
A light-hearted way of getting ourselves out of a funk could be repeating the trite and true saying “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” (Even better, use the words Beverly Cleary has Henry Huggins, the leading character in her series of children’s books say. Obviously having misheard his teacher, Henry encourages his friends with this version: If at first you don’t succeed, fry, fry a hen.)
Finally, I’m getting to the Gospel part of this Gospel reflection. Oh, the familiar images! Blind guides, splinters and beams, learners and teachers, rotten fruit and good fruit. What may not be as familiar to us are these words. “A good person out of the store of goodness in her/his heart produces good … for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
This Gospel sets me on a new path as I make my Lenten plan. What will I do for Lent? I’ll grasp the image of storing up goodness. I’ll sharpen my awareness from whom, from what, from where I receive goodness. I’ll sharpen my willingness to act from the fullness of the heart. And if at first (I) don’t succeed, I’ll fry, fry a hen.
You’re entirely on your own. I have enough trouble coming up with my Lenten practice – much less yours.