“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.” (Luke 6:44-45)
Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to love our enemies and we saw the example of David who had a chance of killing Saul but spared his life because David recognized Saul as the Lord’s anointed. Jesus said in last Sunday’s Gospel passage: “Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned…” David spared Saul because he refused to judge him as a worthless fellow but saw God’s anointing in him despite his many faults. David also practiced the golden rule; he treated Saul as he would have desired to be treated by others.
Today, Jesus wants us to look inwards. To avoid judging and condemning others, we must look at ourselves. Jesus says to us today: “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.” (Luke 6:42) Let us now examine the lessons contained in today’s readings:
1. There is a Need for Constant Self-Examination.
If you drove a car for years without opening the bonnet to check the engine or service it, what would happen to the car? Isn’t this what is happening to us when we never look at what is underneath the bonnets of our hearts? Think of your mind as an engine room and your thoughts as the oil that lubricates the parts, think of your desires as fuel that fires up the engine and your life itself as the car. Where you go and how far you go is the product of what you have inside you. To change the direction of your life, you must learn to examine your mind continuously.
If we do not examine our conscience, we run the risk of judging others for sins that we ourselves are even guiltier of. That is to say, we humans have this tendency of projecting our conscience outwards. It is like we unconsciously fight the darkness that is within us by pointing fingers. When the woman caught in the act of adultery was brought to Jesus, He simply said: “Let him who has not sinned be the first to cast a stone.” That was the moment the crowd was forced to look inwards and upon staring at the darkness within them, they dropped their stones and walked away.
Once upon a time, a couple invited me to bless their business centre so I entered their car. A song was playing from the car stereo and unconsciously I found myself singing along word for word. This was a song I had listened to perhaps more than a thousand times. I didn’t realize I was scandalizing the couple. They were quiet at first but when the wife could not stomach it anymore, she blurted out: “Father, so yourself still sabi this kind song?” I just froze like one who was caught stealing meat from the pot. I didn’t know how to respond. For the first time, I was forced to examine my internal musical library and it dawned on me that I knew more worldly songs than Christian songs.
If we don’t examine our conscience thoroughly, we may be going to confession over and over for the same sins without actually tracing what causes us to fall into the same sin and what exactly we need to do to come out of that trap. If we don’t examine our conscience, we may think we are doing well when in reality, we may be literally feeding the bad wolf within us while expecting the good wolf to win the battle. We could be doing the same things but expecting different results which is insanity. As Socrates said: “An unexamined life is not worth living.”
2. Leadership Requires Foresight.
Jesus asked a question in today’s Gospel passage: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they, not both fall into a pit?” In other words, “can you be a leader when you are not better than the people you want to lead?” No wonder, there is a saying that states: “If you want to change the world, begin with the man in the mirror.” Leadership is not all about power, it is, first of all, a matter of inspiring others.
Become the light you desire to see shining in our society. Lead by action not by complaints. Enough of hate speeches and insults. Whatever you condemn about our leaders, just begin to expunge such from your own life now. Granted, our country is in a pit already but we are all going to remain in this pit until true leaders emerge; leaders who can see. The question we must start asking ourselves now is: “How prepared am I for leadership?”
Today, our society generally is blinded by the craze for instant riches. From the least to the most influential person in our society, there seems to be an insatiable quest to make it by hook or by crook. We have armed robbers everywhere, those who steal with pen and paper, those who steal with guns, those who steal with failed promises, those who steal even while pretending to be catching thieves. Child of God, as you read this message, are you also blinded by riches? Do you believe that until you rake in your millions, you have not yet arrived? Would you rather keep God’s commandments and diligently seek to elk a living through honest, legitimate, and noble means? Are you prepared to use your own mother or sister or perhaps, your girlfriend for rituals just to make it?
3. For us to Bear Good Fruits, we must be Good Trees.
As Jesus put it, “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.” The only way we can offer useful advice to others is if we ourselves are following that same advice. If you are not living out what you preach about, your preaching is useless. At times we make the mistake of admonishing people to do things that we ourselves are not doing. We become like bad trees attempting to bear good fruits. In the end, all our efforts are simply in vain.
As Jesus put it, “Figs are not gathered from thorns nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” Our first reading today states: “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so, the test of a man is in his reasoning. The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so, the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind.” (Sirach 27:5-6) That is to say, if we must be good trees, we must feed and cultivate our minds with the right content.
The book of Proverbs says: “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23). This means if you really desire to live the quality life you envisage, you must watch and select your thoughts. Writing the Philippians, St. Paul admonishes us: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)
Jesus describes the heart as a treasure box noting: “The good man out of his good treasure produces good and the evil man out of his evil treasures produces evil for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). Are the contents of my heart treasures? Are they worthy of praise, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent? Do you really desire to have good treasures in your heart? Then start reading books. Put the phone aside, find a library, select good books and read.
4. The Sting of Death is Sin.
Our final lesson today comes from our second reading. St. Paul teaches us that what makes death so painful is sin. Ordinarily, death is good because it is an opportunity for us to return home to our maker. Unfortunately, death is so frightening because of the possibility of eternal damnation as a result of our sinfulness. Sin makes us enemies of God.
Is it possible to live without sin? St. Paul says: “thanks be to God who has given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:57). Therefore, St. Paul concludes, we must strive to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.” The reason God became flesh to redeem humanity was to show us that human nature is not condemned. We are not slaves to sin. We have what it takes to live above sin.
How then do we overcome sin in our lives? This takes us back to what Jesus says in today’s Gospel passage: “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.” (Luke 6:44-45) Wash the inside of your cup. Believe that you can do without sin. Make efforts like the men who brought their paralytic friend to Jesus through the roof. Let Jesus see your faith and He would reward you with grace to overcome temptation. Don’t look down on yourself.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace of true repentance from all my sins. Amen.
Bible Study: Sirach 27:5-8, Ps. 92:2-3,13-16, 1 Cor. 15:54-58, Luke