8th. Sunday of Year (C)
(Eccles. 27:4-7; 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)
In our troubled times, when many are feverishly seeking for the good things the world has to offer, and Christian morality is often side-lined for personal advantage or profit, people can and do find themselves in difficulties of all sorts; and, finding themselves weighed down with troubles and enmeshed in problems, they frequently turn to others for help. Now that is normal enough, indeed it is typically human.
However, in modern pagan society such human situations are too rarely sanctified, by Christian and Catholic attitudes. For example, it is frequently the case that family and proven friends are the last to be consulted by young people wondering what to do with their future or in their present difficulties, because such youngsters do not want to feel themselves -- or be made to feel themselves -- as youngsters any longer. They are not, perhaps, at the stage of seeking faith-advice on how to do God’s will as good Catholics, but simply wanting, above all, as individual and increasingly decisive persons, human appreciation and possible help from peers with whom they now spend the majority of their formation time. However -- and this may be of concern for the parents who have thus far taught and guided them -- they may well have not yet learned from taught wisdom and life-experience how to recognize and appreciate a true friend and set up good friendships; and they may also – parents’ concern again – be as yet lacking in the necessary moral courage to be able to reject bad friendships.
And so, turning instinctively to their peers for that sympathetic hearing these youngsters so want, there is the danger that any injudiciously chosen helper(s) may go on to give them not merely a sympathetic ear in present troubles but also opinions and advice – sometimes incitement – with regard to future actions.
Loving parents with sons or daughters under trial as I have just shown will therefore have no doubt whatsoever about the answer to Jesus’ question:
Can a blind person lead a blind person?
Nevertheless, many adult persons – not youngsters this time -- who have long thought of themselves, or been considered as, practising Catholics, when they get ‘bogged down’ in troubles begin to say to themselves, ‘Many people are doing this … I don’t see what is wrong if so many are doing it’, and trying to salve their conscience by thinking they will have many companions to back-up any immoral attitudes they may adopt, they often turn to some non-believer, some ‘personal friend’, who is or has been in more or less in the same boat -- so to speak -- as themselves, because they are not wanting -- as believing adults should want -- to find out what Our Lord would have them do, what His Church teaches, what their own conscience urges, but imitating those adolescents-in-faith we have just considered, they also want, above all, a sympathetic and supportive hearing. Here, however, there is much more that is blameworthy than in the case of youngsters wanting the same; for such ‘childish’ self-seeking by adults is incompatible with any true profession of Catholic faith, as witness those hundreds, thousands (?) of nominally Catholic women in Ireland recently having been shown clamouring for abortion and the right to use their bodies for their own purposes, even Deo-non-volente. Behaving in such a way rather than seeking God’s way to right their difficulties and wrongs, proclaiming the emotional high’s and low’s of their own individual stories, they were explicitly seeking an excuse for actions planned or already carried out. Wanting above all moral support from others without faith or from others who have done the same as themselves are planning, they may indeed end-up perhaps comforted for a little while as sinners among many other fellow-sinners, but in no way justified as disciples of Jesus or as living members of His Church. God is not impressed by, nor does He seek, numbers as perhaps too many priests and bishops do; for did not Our Blessed Lord Himself say that the road leading to perdition is broad and smooth, and that many choose to walk along it, whereas the gate leading to life is narrow and few enter therein.
As disciples of Jesus, we believe that we need to learn from Jesus and we profess to want above all to learn from, and become like, one with, Him.
A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.
Now it is a very great blow to teacher to realize that your supposed disciples never can, never want, to turn to you in their need. Jesus alone died for us, Jesus alone can save us: we know these facts and we say we believe them. However, it is indeed a ‘slap in the face’ for Our Lord when His disciples turn for preference, in the way we have described, to worldly and sinful human beings rather than to Himself Who died for them and Whom they call their Saviour, or to those of His disciples who best know His teaching, His will, and His ways.
Let us now listen once more to Jesus with regard to those who are prone to offer themselves as advisors:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Advisors, Jesus says, who claim to be able to help, or pretend to give help to, others in their troubles with advice that springs from their own unenlightened and disordered lives, are usurpers.
I am the true vine, you are the branches. Unless you eat My (fruit), (that is) eat My flesh and drink My blood, you do not have life in you.
People of God, never forget that the way you try to make yourself happy in this world will determine whether or not you find real happiness in the kingdom of heaven. Seek sympathy from those who want ‘their share’ of this world’s forbidden fruit and you will never taste true happiness in eternal life.
So, who are you going to take advice from? First of all, however, what sort of advice do you want? There is advice involving knowledge and there is advice involving merely opinion. Both are advice, that is, something proffered as helpful not obligatory, but knowledge-sought advice honours what or Who is being sought, opinion-sought advice usually favours whoever is asking.
There is only one to whom we, as Catholics and Christians, can ultimately turn, and that is to Jesus. But when I speak of turning to Jesus, I do not mean to imply that we have a private connecting line with Our Lord. Our link with Jesus is always, fundamentally, through His Church and by His Spirit given us in the Church. But, life in the Church is aimed at union with, service of, love for, Jesus Himself; we therefore, as individual disciples truly seeking Jesus, can ask whomsoever we want in Mother Church whom we believe can best help us to Jesus, that is, with superior knowledge or a presumably more holy opinion, and He, Jesus, will contact us through them, for Jesus makes His true disciples good through washing away their sins in the waters of baptism and then by guiding and ultimately endowing them with the wisdom of His most Holy Spirit in mother Church.
If, however, we are not truly seeking Him, His truth and His way, but really our own self-satisfaction, then we ourselves are hypocrites pretending to seek Jesus by the help of advisors who give “friendly” advice, advice which only seeks to be in line with what are the popular and politically correct opinions of the day; advice that can only harm those Catholics and Christians foolish enough to seek and accept it.
Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers.
Make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.
Surely, none of us wants others’ bad fruit to poison our own life?
So, before you seek, and most certainly before you accept, any advice, you should be clear about your own attitude: What are you seeking? Are you seeking worldly acceptance and popularity, worldly success and/or profit, or perhaps just the worldly satisfaction of a life as trouble-free as possible? If so, you are deceiving yourself if you think that you are acting as a Christian, let alone a true Catholic.
However, if you are, as a disciple of Christ, wanting to know how best to walk along Jesus’ ways through your troubles, then listen even more closely to God’s holy word in the book of Revelation (2:7):
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches: To him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.
To him who overcomes: that means, “to the one who perseveres, who endures, who persists”, as a disciple of Jesus, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life. Jesus is the tree of life: eat of the fruit of such a tree, eat His Body and drink His Blood, and life is and will be yours, for:
Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. (John 6:53-55)
We are told by St. Luke (8:18-19) that when Jesus was walking the paths of Palestine,
A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
The sharp and immediate response of Jesus, showing just how much it meant to Him, was:
Why do you call Me good? No one is good-except God alone.
Jesus is now risen and is to be found at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Jesus is the only good Person, good Teacher, for us. Jesus alone is good, and we, disciples of His, turn only to Him in Mother Church, we seek only His guidance, teaching and grace, from His Church and from His disciples.
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
There is only one Sacred Heart, that heart of Jesus from which poured water to cleanse you and blood to revitalize you. Turn to Jesus, draw close to His Sacred Heart and you will find real, not emotional, sympathy, light to give you understanding, and grace to help you do whatever is necessary to rise above your troubles. You will experience what the prophet Isaiah (40:31) had foretold:
Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.