Homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dearly Beloved, for those of you who take time to read and go over the readings every weekend, you would have realized that for the past three weeks we have been reading from the 6th chapter of St. Luke. Among others, this chapter talks about what attitude you need to develop as a Christian. So, for the last three weekends we looked at how our attitude towards circumstances and situations in life should be, faith and trust in God. (Luke 6:20-26). Then from last week (Luke 6:27-38). Emphasizes our attitude towards others, and that should be based on love and mercy. And today’s reading, the last session of Luke 6, the emphasis is on our attitude towards ourselves, which Jesus says should be honesty and introspection. (Luke 6:39-45).
Beloved, in the event that you do not hear or understand any other thing from today’s homily, remember this; the best way to serve, to disciple, to grow, to lead anyone, especially your children, your wife or your husband, is to first focus on yourself. Pay attention to what is going on with you, how to become better.
Dearly Beloved, Jesus teaches us this spiritual truth from the readings through aphorisms. A google definition of an aphorism is an adage, or a tersely phrased statement of the truth. Let's look at three of the aphorisms found in our gospel today.
1. "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?" If you want to lead, you should have what it takes to do so.
2. "How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?" No matter your good intentions, something about you makes it impossible to be the one to suggest correction.
3. "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." If you desire to bring forth goodness in your actions, work on yourself.
Dearly Beloved, what Jesus is teaching us today reminds me of this statement; “Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored in an airplane. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. … Place it firmly over your nose and mouth… If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask first, and then assist the other person."
Within 30 seconds to a minute, you can be in a state call hypoxia – where you literally pass out. You can’t help yourself or any other person. You end up good for nothing. So the rule is, help yourself first. On the other hand you can easily help a person when he/she is in hypoxia.
Friends, another related teaching which is central to the first reading is the value of human speech. “Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.” The gospel equally echoes the same. “For from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks." Both readings come to the conclusion that you can know what sort of person you are dealing with through his or her speech. How do you hear speech, if you do not learn to listen? Your ability to listen will make a difference in all your relationships.
There are however, many wrong assumptions about listening. It’s not that easy, and it is not limited to words that are spoken by another person. You may hear a voice but that may not be enough to constitute listening. Listening, first of all, requires intelligence and skill. Some of us find it difficult to listen deeply to another person, especially if it is a point of view we do not want to hear or when those spoken words conflict with our fragile egos. At times, those words spoken by another person may mean just what we want them to mean and not what the speaker actually means or says.
Beloved, the world will be a better place if we will put in much effort to learn what it means to listen. Allow me to share this story that happened so many years ago. But for God’s providence, I’d set my whole family on fire because my parents and I were not listening. This was a time when my brother was little and almost all attention was directed at him. There was virtually no time for me except go to school, go and sleep, and do this and that. A child that I was, I tried to get some attention by breaking plates, and being stubborn at school so that my parents would be called in. After the particular incident, things remained the same. Then one day, as my mum had her attention on my younger brother, playing with him as I recall, I took matches and lit our curtains. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just wanted some attention too. If you are not listening you will conclude that it was jealousy, but no! All that I had done previously, spoke to them of what I was looking for. Attention!
Dearly beloved, at times the sudden outburst of a husband, the complaining and nagging of a wife, the sudden change in the behavior of your child may be something deeper and more than the issue at hand. These reactions may only be the symptom of your inability to listen and provide the real need or solution to what may be going on. You, however, cannot listen to any person if you cannot listen to yourself. You are not in tune with your own emotions and whatever may be going on with you. Again, the emphasis comes back to you – the self. Listen first to yourself if you want to learn to listen to others.
Beloved, Wednesday begins the season of lent, it is a great opportunity to spend time improving ourselves in our relationship and journey with the Lord. I am encouraging you to have time for yourself and prayerfully write at least three things you need to work on in your life and three blessings you are hopeful for in the coming weeks. Do not sign your name, put it in an envelope, so that either on Wednesday or Sunday when coming to church you may bring it along. We will put all of them in a basket, place them near the altar till Easter. Hope to see you this Wednesday.