Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Sirach is the source of the first reading. Sirach does not appear in the King James, or Authorized, Version of the Bible, the translation used by most Protestant denominations. So, Protestants at times ask Catholics why was Sirach “added” to Catholic versions of the Old Testament. The better question would be, “Why did the persons responsible for the King James Bible eliminate it?
King James I of England, VI of Scotland, coincidentally the only child of Mary, Queen of Scots, commissioned a translation of the Bible that could be used by the people, in the Anglican liturgy and so on. While Church councils in the past had affirmed that Sirach was inspired by God, the biblical scholars in James I’s employ preferred to use an ancient Jewish listing of inspired Scriptures. This is why many Protestants are not familiar with a version of the Bible that includes Sirach, the “Book of Ecclesiasticus.”
As for this reading itself, the meaning is obvious in the examples of shaking the sieve, molding the clay into a vessel and tending the tree until it bears fruit. Many circumstances in life do not just happen. Human activity deliberately shapes them. We create the reality of our lives by who we are and by what we do.
St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians gives the second reading. The pagan, greedy and licentious atmosphere of the great city of Corinth challenged Paul again and again. It was not easy, and no one who reads these two epistles can miss the difficulty, disappointment and exasperation that St. Paul felt in dealing with the Corinthian Christians.
He urgently and relentlessly stressed that Christian discipleship requires a radical conversion, a change of mind and heart that sees death not as the end, but as the beginning, not as defeat but as victory. It is not about talking the talk. It is about walking the walk.
For the Gospel reading, the Church this weekend provides a passage from St. Luke’s Gospel. The readings include a series of statements of Jesus. None leaves its meaning vague or obscure. The statements are clear and straightforward.
Blind persons need guides who can see. Period. This fact pertains today for people who have lost their eyesight. To extend the fact, our cars have headlights so that we can drive them at night. We wear artificial lenses to read.
People own what they do, what they say, and the consequences. Pointing to the faults of others neither excuses, or erases, the effects of our sinfulness or foolhardiness. We must face facts and correct faults.
Finally, sick trees do not yield rich fruit. Anyone today with an apple tree in the yard knows this.
Next Wednesday the Church will observe Ash Wednesday, initiating the season of Lent. The ultimate purpose of Lent is for each of us to celebrate Easter authentically, not as the anniversary of an event, the resurrection of Jesus after death — albeit an event of majesty and glory unequalled in the entirety of human history — but as an absolutely personal experience when we rise from the death of soul that is sin to life with the Lord.
Clay pitchers and goblets do not just suddenly spring into being. Neither does genuine union with the Lord. The clay with which we work is in our hearts and minds. We must mold ourselves in the pattern of the Lord. We cannot succeed by relying on hunch, guess-work or on our blurred human vision. We need a plan with a guide. We need the Lord.
The process requires determination, but it is more than good intentions. We must radically commit ourselves to holiness, despite the world around us. Hence, we approach Lent.
The best news. Delivered to your inbox.
Subscribe to our mailing list today.