Sunday 27th of February
8th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME– YEAR C
This Sunday, the last one before the Lenten journey, completes the journey to the heart of Luke’s Gospel, putting us on guard above all of our conviction of being just. If we are particularly committed to the care of our common home, if we try to listen to the cry of the earth and of the poor, at what risk do we run? It is very nice that Jesus immediately warns his disciples, as soon as he has constituted them and in the very first teaching, on the shores of the lake.
In fact, the Gospel of the Beatitudes of the Evangelist Luke, which we have seen on these Sundays, continues today from that plain from which Jesus speaks which gathers around him, crowds of people thirsting for words, eager to be healed, to touch Christ. His word touches our desires, the theme of enemies, mercy. Being “perfect” without judging, without condemning, but taking God’s stripping as a model, the measure of his love for him without measure. Today’s Gospel is addressed to those who believe they are righteous and enlightened, those who think that there is a better way than mercy. Normally, those who believe themselves righteous are usually more inclined to condemn the others, the different ones. And therefore he is convinced that there is a better way, a sort of theology destined only for them, and not for prisoners and sinners.
Let’s use the image of the blind man to express these people. He is not simply a “blind”, because often blind are the ones who see best. Let’s think of St. Francis composing the Canticle, what beauty he could see despite his eyes having been closed for months due to glaucoma and the cautery suffered in Poggio Bustone! The blind man does not know where he comes from, nor where he is going, he does not realize where he is, he is not aware of who God and his brothers are. If a blind leads another blind, they both end up in a pit! They end up in death, because only God, who is father and mother, can generate life. The “uterine” God we were talking about a few verses before, and whose characteristics we saw last Sunday.
“A disciple is not above his teacher,” refers directly to his own, citing himself as the teacher. A strange teacher, who goes to dinner with sinners, who lives immersed in crowds thirsting for hope, who washes the feet of his friends. Jesus is the term of comparison for his disciples, who must not be “above him”, they must not risk being proud. Consequently, this message concerns each of us, especially those of us who are more committed to the church and risk living this Pharisaic presumption.
Presumption is stupidity. “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye“, one of the most famous images of the gospel. The presumption leads to realize the specks present in the eyes of his brother, and he does not realize that he has a giant speck, a beam! Apart from the hyperbole that Jesus uses as a paradox to convey the idea, but let’s try to imagine a person with a beam in one eye. How does a man have a beam in one eye? He is certainly a dead person! Stupidity, presumption, leads only to death, only to the pit! Whoever judges him is already dead! He is not a child of God, he is not anyone’s brother. How do you live with a beam in one eye? It is the spiritual death of man, when out of stupidity we spend time judging others.
Sometimes, especially in environments where charity is lived, this falsely zealous image reappears: let me help you remove your little specks! Almost as if our action can save the brother, our zeal fixed on the defects of the other, to correct them. Here, if these actions are self-centered to enlarge our pride, Jesus tells us that then we are already dead! In Luke’s Gospel it is not yet the time for fraternal correction, we will have to wait at least until chapter 17. For us, on the other hand, fraternal correction comes often immediately. How much we still have to learn from this master full of wisdom!
Jesus does not deny fraternal help, he does not say not to remove the speck of the other, but he reminds us that first we must remove the beams that we have in our eyes, which not only do not make us see, but do not even make us live. When we have first worked on ourselves, learning to recognize our beams, to welcome others with love, then perhaps we can begin to think about lending a hand. And that help will not be ephemeral, self-centered, but will bear much fruit. And in fact, Jesus’ discourse continues turning his gaze to creation, and as often in his style, taking a cue from creation to make his teaching more effective.
“For no good tree bears bad fruit,“, literally “beautiful tree”. He uses the metaphor of the tree to tell the humankind, and to conclude the discourse of the beatitudes. Then he will use the image of the heart, and finally the image of the house, not present in today’s Gospel. But it is nice to see how Jesus, to describe man with a holistic gaze, borrows three images: an image of creation, an interior image, and finally an image of relationships. The tree is a symbol of life because it takes something that has no life, sister earth, brother wind, sister water, brother fire from the sun, the four elements of the Canticle, to transform them into life. It is a symbol of mankind, rooted in the earth, who does not crawl but soars towards the sky, with the branches reaching towards the light, like a man in prayer. With roots hidden in the abyss of darkness, the darkness of human desires, but by nature he feels the thirst for light. A tree that lives of seasons, a spring of youth, a summer of fruit, decay, but rebirth, resurrection. The whole Bible is full of images of trees, of metaphors on man starting from the observation of creation. Starting from Eden, where there are many trees, but two are particular: there is the tree of life, that of fullness, and there is the tree of knowledge, which can lead to death. And then there is another very important tree, the tree of the cross that stands on the hill of Golgotha, the wood where all the contradictions and human sufferings materialize, where the righteous is killed. But it is also a tree where perfect love is made concrete, the total gift of self, the tree that in the Apocalypse produces fruit twelve months a year, that is, always!
A beautiful tree bears beautiful fruits. It doesn’t even try, that’s his nature. Each man acts according to his own nature. This helps us to understand if, on our path towards conversion, we are on the right way: just look at the fruits! What are the beautiful fruits? Suffice it, for example, to read the letter to Galatians 5: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control“. If there is this, maybe we are on the right track! If there is mercy, there is everything. In Greek, the straw is “carphos”, the fruit is “carpòs”, it sounds almost the same, as if you are confused between a speck and a beautiful fruit! The bad fruit, in the Greek translation, it would be better to say “putrid”, dead, decaying, made of our looking at the specks of others. Those are the works of the flesh: “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these“. Well known, says Paolo, and after two thousand years not much has changed.
What to do if my tree produces bad fruit? Do I start making fake fruit, like the delicious martorana fruit with almond paste that is made in Sicily? Delicious sweets, but they are not real fruits, even if very similar. Do I try to put on masks to pretend goodness? We would not go far. So the first thing to do is to contemplate ourselves, to look at ourselves, a look of truth. Accept our limit, recognize it. Recognize ourselves in need of God’s mercy, within our limits. He won’t hesitate to come and meet us, he can’t wait! The place of my evil, the Jordan River where sinners are baptized, is the water where I can meet Christ in silence. Recognizing myself as a bad tree allows me to receive the immense gift of grace, which I can then give back freely to my neighboring brothers.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good“, he almost seems to warn against martorana fruit, from plastic fruit. None of us can lie to our hearts, even if on the outside we can make a good impression, say beautiful things, be lovable and nice. Each of us now knows if it is a whitewashed tomb, or if it is authentic. Each of us knows our heart. The principle of good and evil is found in our hearts, it is useless to seek alibis and think that there are impure things in the world. Creation is the work of God, therefore it is good. It is the use we make of it that makes us good or bad. A beautiful heart brings out the good, a putrid heart brings out death.
“For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks, we return to the word, which can be a source of life or death. As already said several times, the whole first piece of Luke’s Gospel is a sort of “logotherapy”, a healing through the word. That word for which the crowds, on the shores of that lake, are so thirsty. The first fundamental work of the heart is the word. All our relationships are based on words. Our whole life is governed by our words. The whole world is always guided by words, how many leaders have guided whole crowds with words. For better or for worse. We are called today to pronounce the beautiful word.
In this not judging, on this last Sunday before the Lenten journey, the words of St. Francis addressed to a minister come alive again, in a wonderful letter which in a passage says: “And love those who act with you in this way, and do not demand give them other than what the Lord will give you. And in this love them and do not expect them to become better Christians “(FF 234). We thank the Lord for his gift of wisdom, who teaches us to live a beautiful life today, and in his mercy opens a door of hope to us. Let us pray that we convert our gaze from the speck of the brother to our misery. We sincerely wish you a happy Sunday.