(Ordinary Time – Cycle C)
1 Corinthians 15,54-58
This Sunday’s liturgy is an invitation to enter into ourselves to enrich the heart in the light of Jesus’ work and transform it in a “good tree that may give good fruit.” The hypocrite, as today’s gospel says, knows only how to see the splinter in the other’s eye, but does not manage to see it in one’s own. He or she is afraid to look at his or herself and closes in on oneself in the unconsciousness of pride. The struggle against hypocrisy and the recuperation of sincerity of heart are indispensable for the disciple of Jesus, thus pride is the fundamental sin that blinds and obstructs the door to God’s action.
The first reading (Sirach 27,4-7) offers us a small gem of wisdom, taken from the book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus; a work that has come down to us in a Greek tradition realized in the year 132 BC. The author starts with an image from the world of pottery (v. 4: “in a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind”) and the other taken from the vegetable world (v. 6: “the orchard where the tree grows is judged by its fruit”). In the same way, the true value of a person is recognized through his social expressions, that is, in his or her way of relating to the world and others. Man and woman above all come to be known starting with their words. The word, in effect, “reveals the thought of the human heart” (v. 6). The text supposes a profound relationship between the interiority of the person, represented by the heart, and his or her exterior expressions, represented by the word. The ideal of the biblical sage is a clean heart and a pacific tongue. For this reason, the psalmist prays so: “Yahweh, mount a guard over my mouth, a guard at the door of my lips. Do not let my heart be inclined to evil” (Psalm 141,3-4). This treats of an obtaining of an interior life illuminated by the word of God and a conduct and a coherent language with one’s heart.
The second reading (1 Corinthians 15,54-58) makes up the conclusion of the fifteenth chapter of the first letter to the Corinthians, dedicated entirely to the theme of the resurrection of Christ as the principle and foundation of Christian life. At the end of his reflections, Paul bursts out in a cry of victory and of joy, evoking two texts of the Old Testament: “he has destroyed death forever” (cf. Is 25,8); “Where are your plagues, Death?” (cf. Hosea 13,14). Death has been reduced to a total impotence in Christ. Paul besides, narrows down that which is the ultimate root of the total death of man and woman, starting with the image of the venomous sting of the snake (Rev 9,10: the root of death is sin.) Also, from this mortal venom, God has liberated us in the Risen Christ.
The gospel (Luke 6,39-45) for this Sunday is a continuation of the “discourse on the plane” that we began last Sunday, with which we conclude the liturgical reading of this fundamental discourse of Jesus. This Sunday’s text revolves around two fundamental themes: (a) Motivations for merciful love and (b) The Word of Jesus as principle of action for the disciple. We will comment separately on both themes.
(a) Motivations for merciful love. – In the first place, Luke speaks of the “blind person that guides another blind person”, an expression that in the context of the chapter makes reference to the disciple of Jesus that does not practice mercy, and therefore, does not abstain from judging and condemning others. He or she is called “blind” because he or she does not act according to the example of the merciful God, that “is kind with the ungrateful and the wicked” (Lk 6,35) and continues being intolerant and inflexible with others to which he or she judges or condemns continually (Lk 6,37). With this attitude the risk is run not only of doing much damage, but rather of creating conditions so that also others may acquire the same style of life: “both will fall into a pit.”
A second proverb makes reference to the ideal of the disciple, that in the Jewish world did not consist in surpassing the master with the acquisition of new doctrines or theories, rather in the becoming similar to him coming to understand the tradition that he handed on (Lk 6,40). In the context of the discourse of Luke, the proverb is directed to the Christian disciple, who has to take on the task of vital assimilation with Jesus’ instructions, his or her master, who, has lived and has taught mercy without limits, in imitation of the Heavenly Father.
A last motivation for not judging or condemning others, rather treating them with mercy, is offered by the image of the “splinter” and the “log” (Lk 6,41-42). The incoherence of the person that is attentive to the small defect of his or her brother or sister is underlined, while losing vision of oneself that is enormous. “Hypocrite” is the epitaph that sums up well that person living the experience of faith in a double or false way (Lk 12,56; 13,15), as the person, condemning the failures of his or her brother or sister, does not know how to recognize one’s own. The small hyperbole concludes with the exhortation to convert before judging others. Therefore, besides prohibiting judgment or condemnation, the argument based on the splinter and the log, obligates a profound change of heart and of life. The term “brother” appears four times in two verses. The true motivation in not judging is precisely in fraternity. Among brothers and sisters, one is not superior to the other; therefore, staying outside of any judgment and reciprocal condemnation.
(b) The word of Jesus as principle of conduct. – The image of the tree and of the fruits is taken from the world of the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament (Ps 1,3; Prov 11,30; Eccl 27,6). The fruits represent the exterior manifestation, almost spontaneous, of the assimilation of the journey of wisdom. The wise man or woman that place their joy in the Law of The Lord and meditate upon it day and night, making of it their food and the orienting principle of all of their existence, will be like a tree planted near flowing water, that “gives fruit in due time and its leaves never fade” (Ps 1,1-3)
The text speaks of the “sound tree” and the “rotten tree.” This distinction obviously does not refer to an intrinsic goodness or evil, in a type of determinism according to which there are good people that do good and bad people that do bad. In the gospel’s perspective, the goodness or badness of the tree is in relationship with the welcoming of the word of Jesus. Whoever welcomes it and puts it into practice, will come to the point of carrying out good works, to the contrary of someone who rejects the teaching of Jesus. For this reason, Luke affirms: “There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, not again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit” (Lk 6,43). The “sound” tree corresponds to the “good man” that “draws from the goodness in his heart”; the “bad” tree, to the “bad man” that from his bad heart draws out that which is bad. The heart’s treasure is the word of Jesus that illuminates and guides the disciple in all of existence, converting it into a good tree that gives good fruits and into a good person that does good things.
The text concludes alluding to the relationship between the disciple and his or her works: “For the words of the mouth flow out of what fills the heart” (v. 45). The phrase refers explicitly to the relationship between the heart (interiority, thoughts, plans) and the mouth (word, language), but in reality, as in today’s first reading, all of that which is the external act of the believer is alluded to. From the mouth of the believer not only do hurting, false and immoral words not come forth, rather from his or heart illuminated by the gospel heart also is manifested coherent works with a merciful and available love that Jesus has placed in the center of his teaching for all disciples.