Deacon Cornellís Homily

Readings:   

Sirach 27:4-7
1 Corinthians 15:54-58
Luke 6:39-45

Date:

February 26-27, 2022, Eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle C

Today's readings contain a series of wisdom sayings about the relationship between appearances and essence. They remind us that there are two sides to this relationship. The first is that we can't fool people with appearances for very long. Over the long haul, our words and actions and effect on the world around us will indicate who we are inside. The other side of this relationship is that once we get our heart, our soul, our essence, straightened out, everything else will flow naturally from that. We won't have to try hard to be good or to do what is right. After all, an apple tree doesn't have to try hard to bear apples does it? It doesn't need a law to tell it not to bear the occasional pineapple or kiwi fruit.

What does all this have to do with our faith, our religion, salvation? It has a lot to do with it, especially in the light of our baptismal call. By our baptism, we are called to be the mystical body of Christ. We are to live our lives both individually, but more importantly, as a community, in such a way that we make the presence of God real here and now. That is who we are called to be by our baptism. Our mission is to continue Jesus's work here on earth of enfleshing God's love.

Jesus gives us some good advice in the Gospel about how to go about our mission. The first couple of sayings that we hear from Jesus in today's readings remind us that as Christians we are called to be leaders and teachers to the world. As leaders and teachers, we have a responsibility to learn about what we are teaching, to become what we are teaching, otherwise we end up being ignored or worse yet, leading people astray. All too often in the last 2,000 years, Christians have been the blind leading the blind, or people who strain to point out the speck in other's eyes while we ignore the log in ours. How can Christians teach the world that God intends us to be one big human family when we can't even get together as one Church? How can Christians teach the world that the Good News is that God has forgiven everyone everything they have ever or will ever do when we so often seem to concentrate on making sure that sinners feel guilty? How can Christians teach the world that God has made us to love and forgive when we so often respond to evil and violence with rationalized anger and violence?

Does this mean that we are to accept evil or condone violence. Not at all. It means that if we are truly interested in ending violence and overcoming evil we must do it the way Jesus told us in last week's Gospel reading: by loving our enemies, turning the other cheek, doing more than required for those who need our help. By doing this we will become the tree that bears good fruit. We will show others what it is like to be children of God. The only way to do that effectively is to become children of God, to become more truly the image of our God who is love.

And what about the fruit of our collaborative tree? What would someone conclude about our essence by spending time with us at our liturgies, our social gatherings, our religious education classes, our other activities? What does our demeanor here at Mass say about our welcoming and our need to be in communion with each other? What does the way we say the responses show about our understanding of who God is and how important it is to give God thanksgiving and praise? What does our singing say about the joy we have at being loved and forgiven by God, and knowing that we are called to be with God forever in paradise? Are we a tree bearing good fruit or less appealing fruit? Our appearance reflects our essence.

Appearances are critical to our responsibility to be the body of Christ here and now. We can't do this by just preaching or criticizing or pointing out what is right or wrong. We need to do it, as the Constitution of the Church in the Modern World from Vatican II says, by the witness of our lives.

People say it is hard to be a good Christian. The wisdom in today's readings says no; it is the easiest thing in the world if we get our hearts right. What is hard is to be a Christian while concentrating on rules and appearances, and struggling to do Christian things. What is hard is to be a Christian while still clinging to what the world preaches as success and power. That is not just hard but it is impossible to do. Once we give ourselves over to God's love, the rest will be easy because it will flow from our nature. Let's take advantage of this coming season of Lent to make a serious effort to recognize and respond to God's love and forgiveness. Let's celebrate the sacrament of Reconciliation; let's immerse ourselves in the celebration of the Eucharist; let's embrace prayer, fasting, and works of charity. Then we will live as children of God, a people who understand that we are completely forgiven and unconditionally loved by God. Once we let God transform our hearts, our essence, we will be a tree bearing good fruit in this winter of a world; our fruit will reveal to others the beauty of love, forgiveness, and truth that is our essence.

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