C Cycle – 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time 22
I wonder how those listening to Jesus responded to these words we just heard. Who is the blind leading the blind? Was he referring to the Pharisees whom he continually chastised for the burdens they placed upon the people? No one is greater than their teacher. Is this another reference to himself being the Son of God and his telling them his teaching is the ultimate revelation of God? Indirectly telling them the Pharisees are perverting the promises of God made to them through the prophets.
His words come and jolt them out of their comfortable faith. He is like a boxer, landing a punch, pulling back and then landing another. It is an assault on their beliefs and is deliberately making them internalize his teaching. Then comes the set up punch for the knockout blow. Stop judging others and look inside yourself to see how the small sins are just as deadly as the big bold sins of those wretched sinners – the murderers, the rapist, the child molesters, the adulterers, the depraved and evil of society. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, the tax collector in the temple beating his breast praying, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner and the Pharisee standing nearby thanking God he is not like other people who sin (Lk. 18:11-13).
Who are we, why were we created, what is the meaning and purpose of our lives? At the heart of all these sayings of Jesus, is a message to us. He is challenging us to open the eyes of our hearts to see how sin is sin. All sin separates us from God and all sin pollutes the very good we try to do. That Pharisee after thanking God he is not like the tax collector tells us what he believes makes him more acceptable to receive grace from God. He obeys the laws on tithing to the ninth degree and he fasts more than the law requires. He is measuring his holiness by his obedience to the law. God has told us from the time of Abraham he desires more than obedience, he desires our hearts.
Every one of these statements from Jesus should be a blow waking us up to a reality of how easily we can believe we are doing the right thing. We are faithfully adhering to the tenants of our faith. We strive to avoid sin, at least the big ones. We give of our time, and we are faithful in offering a tithe to the church, even if our tithe has never increased in years. Jab, Jab, Jab, each word hitting home and should be making us aware of the fact Jesus is not speaking to condemn us but to wake us up.
That wakeup call comes when he tells us about bearing fruit. If we take the time to reflect on those jabs by Jesus, we should be looking inward and sensing the fact we are falling short of what God expects of us. Remember when God created us in his own image, he calls us “very good,” but he also gave us free will. It is that free will that desire within us to serve self before God creates in us the inclination to sin. God has created us to be good. That is why we all know people who do good things but never will set foot in a church. They in fact will tell you they do not need a church and that the church is full of hypocrites.
This is not a parable telling us when we are born, we are either good or evil. No, it is telling us we daily make small incremental choices to sin. We do not believe we steal when we take supplies from our employer or pocket that incorrect change given to us by a cashier. Those choices pollute the good we do, and they cause us to define sin as not doing the “big” things. Yet we daily fail in the unimportant things. Those sayings we heard from Jesus this week and last week have pointed out how wrong our thinking about sin is. We have by believing by avoiding big sins we defined holiness as something less than God defines sin.
That is the reason Jesus is telling us to look inward at the splinter in our own eyes and why we need to look at what kind of tree we have become. We are called to become a visible example of our dependence on God for our holiness. That tax collector who knew he needed to do more but needed to feel forgiveness before he could begin his journey to live differently. We do not begin evil, we are being our lives as innocents and the impact of others, faith, and the world shapes us. But the scriptures tell us we can become new creations in Christ (2 Cor.5:17). And there in lies the only way to grow in holiness, in Christ, through Christ and with Christ.
We will begin to bear the good fruit that impacts others when we embrace the fact, we are sinners who will never achieve the holiness God desires. Then Jesus will not only embrace us but will send his Holy Spirit to form us, shape us, and teach us. We do want to be good people, producing the good fruit that comes from the Spirit changing our hearts. The fruit we bear is more glorious than we can imagine. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness (Gal. 5:22}.