Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
March 3, 2019 – Year C
Readings: Sir 27:4-7 / Ps 92 / 1 Cor 15:54-58 / Lk 6:39-45
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Today is the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time. We have been in the same book of the Gospel of Luke for the past three weeks. This part of Luke’s Gospel is called the Sermon on the Plain, and it’s a parallel to St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. They share many similarities.
Let me refresh your memory on the gospels for the past few weeks. Two weeks ago, Jesus was talking about blessings: “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are hungry, for you will be satisfied.” He goes on: “Woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.”
Then last week, Jesus was talking about how we need to love our enemies and how we need to love our neighbors.
This week, we pick up where we left off. Jesus talks about our state of mind, our inner being. He talks about the blind leading the blind. As followers of Christ, we’re all called to be disciples and to lead others to Christ. But if we can’t see Christ ourselves, if our relationship with Christ is lacking, how can we expect that we will be able to help others on their journey?
We have to ask ourselves whether we actually know the way to Christ. We have to ask ourselves about our own relationship with Christ. And we have to ask ourselves how much we are concerned with the things of this world as opposed to the things of the spiritual world.
Jesus goes on to get quite critical, and He talks about hypocrisy. I believe that hypocrisy is one of the Devil’s greatest weapons against the Church, because a huge amount of good can suddenly be overshadowed by a fall of people in authority in the Church, and in our own lives.
So Jesus is asking us to ask ourselves a question: Do we have a beam in our eye? What is that beam? How has the beam in our eye affected the people around us? What beams do we need to remove, and how do we need to move forward so that we can be better disciples to those that we meet every day?
This is the last Sunday in Ordinary Time before we begin Lent. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, and it’s the start of the season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, but historically there are many more people at Mass on Ash Wednesday evening than there are on January 1, which is a holy day of obligation.
Why is that? Deep down, we are aware of our own shortcomings, and when Lent comes, we’re reminded of those, and we’re drawn to make amends.
There are two verses that we can hear when we receive our ashes. In light of the message of the past few weeks in the Sermon on the Plain, and in light of preparing ourselves for the season of Lent, it’s worth reflecting on both of them.
The first option is: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” It seems straightforward at first, but we’ve got to remember that the word “repent” in Greek is actually metanoia, which literally means to change your mind. It literally means to be changed. It’s less about being sorry for what we have done, than it is about making internal changes to ourselves so that we don’t do it again. And the word “gospel” means good news.
So that verse actually means, “Be changed, and believe in the good news.” It’s worth asking ourselves whether we always see it as good news. Do we see life as a Christian as a burden or a blessing? As we prepare for Lent, it’s worth asking ourselves what adjustments we need to make so that we see it as good news.
The second option for the application of ashes is: “Remember you are dust, and to dust you will return.” That is a beautiful reminder to us that we are not God. One of my favorite quotes is what God said to St. Teresa, “Remember: I am. You are not.” We are not God. We are physical beings, and we live in a physical, finite world, which we will go beyond.
On the other hand, God is infinite, and God is the one who is ultimately in control. We need to remind ourselves that we need to rely on God, because He is and we are not.
Lent is a call to conversion. The Ordo contains this reflection: “The purpose of the first part of Lent is to bring us to compunction. Compunction is of the same word origin as the verb “to puncture,” and suggests deflation of our own ego, a challenge to any self-deceit about the quality of our lives as disciples of Jesus. By hitting us again and again with demands which we not only fail to obey but which we come to recognize as being quite beyond us, the gospel passages are meant to trouble us, to confront our illusions about ourselves. Their purpose is not to confirm us in our sense of virtue, but to bring home to us our radical need for salvation.”
So as we move into this season of Lent, let’s all remind ourselves that we need to repent. We need to believe in the Gospel. We need to remember that we are dust, and we’re going to return to dust. And we need to strive to make improvements in ourselves, so that the fruit we bear will be good fruit and not bad.