Sunday Sermon for March 3, 2019, the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Sir 27:4-7; 1 Cor 15:54-58; Lk 6:39-45
In the second reading St. Paul talks about the corruptible putting on incorruptibility and what is mortal being clothed in immortality with the result that God gives us the victory of life over death. In the meantime, we are still living with that which is corruptible and we still live in the shadow of death. St. Paul says the sting of death is sin.
Death is one of the effects of sin and corruptibility is an effect of death. This being the case, we can say that sin demonstrates the depth of our corruption. However, holiness counters this and demonstrates the beauty of life and and the goodness of virtue. This is something we can all consider knowing Lent begins in just a few days.
Consider carefully the areas of sin in your life. These are the actions that pull us down and allow the cold hands of death and corruption to clamp down tighter on our very being. About 3500 years ago Moses presented the Law of God to the people of Israel and told them he was placing before them life and death, the blessing and the curse. He pleaded with them to choose life, but that was a choice each individual had to make.
Nothing has changed. Each of us is still faced with this same decision. We give lip service to God and to eternal life, but often we reach out to death and corruption. In a society like ours where virtue is not appreciated and vile ways have become the norm, it is easy to convince ourselves that we are doing well. At least, we might think, we are doing better than most people. Given the direction most people in our society are going, this is not saying much for us.
Of course, we have to look at Jesus, not at others, as the norm for our lives. He alone is the way to life; He alone is life itself. If we are going to choose life, we have to choose Jesus. This does not mean giving Him lip service; it means choosing to serve Him. This requires time spent daily in prayer, effort to root out sin and grow in holiness, and the intention to become like the One we serve. To be certain, this is a two-way street: Jesus is already serving us, so our choice to serve Him is only responding to His love by choosing love.
Often people do perfunctory things for Lenten penances. Some of us do the same things we have been doing since we were children. However, extending ourselves only to the expectations of children is too shallow for us as adults.
Perhaps you already have a solid prayer life and you are working hard at being virtuous and charitable to others. I hope this is true for everyone reading these words. If this is the case, then perhaps the instruction given in the readings today will help us to grow even more. Sirach tells us our faults appear when we speak. Speech, he says, discloses the bent of the mind.
Jesus goes even further in the Gospel, saying: “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, we can be doing good things for others and refraining from things that are bad for us, but the real question is: what is in our mind and heart? With a little practice, it is easy to put up a façade which makes people think well of us. In our heart and mind, however, we may be entertaining the vilest of thoughts or desires.
We might smile at someone and treat them kindly, but we may be secretly thinking something very negative about the person. We may harbor antipathy toward someone in our heart, but when we see the person we can act as pleasant as possible. As we grow in virtue, the change in our external actions always precedes the change in our internal dispositions.
For this reason we need to pay attention to what comes out of our mouths when we are away from the person. If the person’s name comes up in conversation, how do we react? If people are talking about something sinful, what is our response? We can also look deep within our self to discern the movements of the heart so we are aware of whether there is an attraction to the gossip or calumny.
We can also gauge our affect and language when we speak about someone or something. If it is angry or negative, we have some work to do. Maybe this would be an area to work on for Lent so the victory God gives us through Christ can purify our hearts of any evil and our speech can reveal the store of goodness that fills our hearts!