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The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
February 27, 2022

Watch this homily!

     Did you get a little lost in those readings? I must confess I did. They kind of bounced from one thing to another with little or no apparent coherence or logic. We had shaking sieves; we had pottery, and furnaces, 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; the problem was there was too much: too many images – strong but disconnected images – along with wise and pithy sayings that seemed to come out of nowhere with very little reference one to the other. Don’t get me wrong: I know it’s all the inspired Word of God but ‘inspired’ and ‘inspiring’ aren’t necessarily the same thing! 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, misrepresentations, or downright lies 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, has gotten debased in recent times. So much so that we don’t have very high expectations of getting the truth any more, do we? Think of what’s coming out of Russia right now. None of what we’re hearing bears the slightest resemblance to the truth. It is nothing but disinformation, shameless propaganda, pure fabrication. It’s a sad development, isn’t it, when we can no longer expect to get the truth in a situation like this situation, or many others, for that matter - including much of the political posturing in our own country? But we should expect the truth. We should not only expect it, we should demand it - from political leaders, from pundits, from priests, from everyone, including ourselves. So, there’s one takeaway from those seemingly random verses. Speech is sacred. It should be considered and measured, authentic and worthy of our trust. Above all, it should be true.

     There was more wisdom to be gleaned in the passage from Luke’s gospel. Jesus says that a blind person cannot lead another blind person. They’re unlikely to get where they’re going. That’s obvious enough. What’s not so obvious is why Jesus said it. It’s pretty clear he was pointing to the religious leaders with whom he was often in conflict. They were supposed to be guides to the blind, lights to those in darkness, but too often were anything but. And he was almost certainly singling them out 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 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: they should build up, not tear down, bring light, not darkness. The good order of human society depends on this. Is it any wonder, then, that we are witnessing what appears to be the ever-increasing disintegration of our social fabric at this time as words are used to deceive, obfuscate, and threaten? Is it any wonder that we are less and less able to talk to one another, to respect one another, to believe one another?

     Maybe there was more in those readings than I first thought! But I’m going to stop here with the thought that we have much to ponder, much to reflect on. Happily, Lent is fast upon us. There will be plenty of time for pondering, for reflecting, for prayer. And, given the sorry state of our world at the moment, God knows there is much for us to pray about…!

Father Michael G. Ryan





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