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The 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 3, 2019


     Did you get a little lost in those readings? I did. They kind of bounced from one thing to another with little or no apparent logic.  We had shaking sieves; we had pottery, and furnaces, corruptibility and incorruptibility, splinters and wooden beams, figs and thorn bushes, grapes and brambles, good trees and bad trees, good fruit and rotten fruit. 

     To be honest. I found myself wondering how I was ever going to get a homily out of all that! It’s not that there wasn’t enough there – there was almost too much: too many images – strong but disconnected images – along with wise sayings that seemed to come out of nowhere with very little coherence or unity. Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s all the inspired Word of God but are ‘inspired’ and ‘inspiring’ the same thing?  Maybe not.  So, if you are less than inspired by what I have to say this morning, I’m hoping you will cut me some slack!

     I did glean one gem from the reading from the Book of Sirach (one of the wisdom books from the Jewish scriptures). It’s this: people who speak for a living and whose lives depend to some degree on the words they speak (priests and politicians come to mind, among others), ought to watch what they say. Sirach makes a strong case for measured, forthright, honest speech. Falsehoods, or howlers, or downright lies and misrepresentations will not escape notice, Sirach says; they will stick out like husks of grain do when a baker shakes flour in a sieve. To quote the passage, “When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks. One’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is in speaking that people are tested.”

     That got me to thinking about how much our speech, our discourse, is getting debased these days. Sadly, we don’t have very high expectations of getting the truth any more, do we? Nor do we expect to be edified by what we hear. But we should. We should not only expect it, we should demand it - from priests, from politicians, from pundits, from everyone, including ourselves. So there’s one takeaway from those seemingly random readings. Speech is sacred. It should be considered and measured, honest and respectful.  Above all, it should be true.

     There was more wisdom in the passage from Luke’s gospel. Jesus says that a blind person cannot – or should not – try to lead another blind person. They’re unlikely to get where they’re going. That’s pretty obvious. What’s not so obvious is why Jesus said it. I think he was pointing to religious leaders – blind religious leaders with whom he was often in conflict. And I think he was also pointing to them when he spoke about eyes with wooden beams in them and eyes with tiny splinters. People with major blind spots ought to clear those up before pointing out the minor blind spots of others. Good advice for religious leaders of any time, including ours, wouldn’t you agree!

     My friends, I’m going to be content this morning that, from a blur of images and a slew of seemingly disconnected sayings, there was some wisdom to be gleaned: like face your own truth before presuming to tell others how to face theirs; watch what you say, care about what you say. Words are sacred, and so are the people to whom we speak them. And words should always be in the service of truth: words should build up, not tear down, bring light, not darkness. None of this may be at the pinnacle of Christian morality but it could surely take us a step beyond the present, sorry state of human discourse.

     Maybe that’s enough for now. Lent is fast upon us. There will be plenty of time for going deeper. And longer. Stay tuned!

Father Michael G. Ryan




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Seattle, Washington  98104
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