The 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Sirach 27: 4 – 7; Ps. 92; 1 Cor 15: 54 – 58; Luke 6: 29 – 46)
Depending on the date when Lent begins, this 8th Sunday might not be celebrated; this year is the exception. All three readings are very fitting as we begin Lent on Wednesday. The Scriptures have something important to say about conversion, our personal Baptismal commitment, turning from what is sinful to turning to God, our supreme good.
In all three, we are called to know ourselves at a deeper level, and that might prove frightening for some, called to listen willingly to our own hearts, to seek to know the real place of God in our lives so that our Baptismal journey is truly a journey of grace into grace, of coming to know ourselves and the One we call our God. The readings leave no room for the idea that our faith life is just pieties; we must never be satisfied with the status quo – Jesus’ own words are most clear: “Unless your holiness surpasses that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Sacred Word spells out for us what surpassing holiness looks like.
Sirach calls us to investigate our speech – more than just mere words our speech, our conversations “disclose the bent of one’s mind.” Our talk can flow from inherent goodness or from inherent malice or somewhere in-between – we can bless and we can curse. As men and women who are baptized into Christ, who believe in His abiding presence within us, our speech clearly reveals whether Christ’s presence is at work or whether He has been silenced.
St. Paul calls us to “be firm, steadfast, always devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” This labor of grace is not a now and then thing, like 40 days of Lent, but for each day, each moment of life because Christianity is a way of life, the way for us. Left to ourselves such labor would be a terrible burden, a reason to give up believing but we are not left to ourselves. Jesus, our strength, said, “I am with you” – trusting in His words, His presence we make our way. The question is: “How much trust do I put in His words, His promise?”
St. Luke calls us to look to ourselves because the temptation to look for and remove beams from the eyes of others is very enticing and extremely arrogant. Acting from a store of goodness or, God forbid, from one of evil – realizing that
both, to whatever degree, have been my experience can really call us up short – make us stop in our tracks – and however unsettling this can become a moment of light – of seriously seeking the grace of conversion. God can make all things work for good. He is omnipotent mercy.
Conversion – turning more and more to God demands a strong motivation, an excellent reason, a faithful movement, a power outside oneself. And we do have that. St. Luke wrote: “…for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” This certainly describes our Lord. The word fullness in the original language means a superabundance, an abundance over and above – and of course, this is God’s love, a measure that has no measure!.
At every Mass, we hear the Lord Jesus speak from that fullness of love – through the priest the Lord, we hear: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it, for this is My Body, which will be given up for you.” and “Take this, all of you, and drink from it, for this is the chalice of My Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
“…given up for you…poured out for you” – how can we hear of such love and not seek conversion?…for how can we receive such love in the Holy Eucharist and not live conversion willingly, gratefully, steadfastly? What other motivation, reason do you/I need?