Year C: Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.
Luke 6: 39-49
And he told them a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thorn bushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command? I will show you what someone is like who comes to me, listens to my words, and acts on them. That one is like a person building a house, who dug deeply and laid the foundation on rock; when the flood came, the river burst against that house but could not shake it because it had been well built. But the one who listens and does not act, is like a person who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the river burst against it, it collapsed at once and was completely destroyed.”
The Gospel of The Lord.
- Why is it is a good idea to ask yourself, “Do I feel resistant to anything in today’s Gospel?” If you do feel resistant, what does that tell you about yourself?
- What is so dangerous about being blind to one’s own faults? What can you do to prevent this from happening to you?
- We are to become healthy trees bearing good fruit, and solid foundations that can withstand the storm; In your experience, where do you see these metaphors coming to life?
- Who have been your informal spiritual teachers past and present? How have they guided you “to see” spiritual things more clearly?
- In what ways do see yourself acting on Jesus’ words?
Luke 6: 39-49
Margaret Nutting Ralph PHD
The sermon on the plain continues. Remember, the context is discipleship. Jesus has taught his brand-new disciples that the poor and the hungry are blessed, and that his disciples must love their enemies. These are very hard teachings. Jesus’ contemporaries would have presumed just the opposite: that the rich are blessed and that their enemies, are God’s enemies too. Last week, as we read Jesus’ teaching that we must love our enemies, we acknowledged that we might reel resistant to Jesus’ teaching. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel suggest that those listening to Jesus were feeling resistant too.
Today’s Lectionary reading begins, “Jesus told his disciples a parable— ” What follows does not seem to be a parable at all, but a question: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” We will have a great deal to say about parables as we read Luke’s Gospel. For now we will simply notice that the word parable is used in Luke’s Gospel not only to describe developed stories; it is also used, as it is here, to name a short, proverbial saying. This distinction will become important in later discussions.
Jesus’ question, “Can a blind person guide a blind person?” addresses the resistance his disciples may be feeling to his teachings. If they are resistant it is because they have a blind spot; they cannot see the truth of Jesus’ teaching. Until the disciples can see the truth, they are not ready to lead others. If they were to teach others now they would simply teach others their own misunderstandings. That would be the blind leading the blind. The disciples and those they are leading would both fall into the pit. Before leading others the disciples need to spend time with Jesus so that they can learn the truth. Jesus then tells them that; “when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” In other words, disciples become like their teacher when, instead of resisting the truth that their teacher is teaching, they understand and embrace it.
Jesus then asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” When Jesus speaks of a “wooden beam” in his disciple’s eye he is again describing spiritual blindness. This blindness leads one to be judgmental about the behavior of others while, at the same time, failing to notice what is wrong in one’s own behavior. Jesus insists that if his disciples want to judge someone, they should judge themselves: “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.”
Jesus wants his disciples to bear good fruit. However, they will not be able to bear good fruit until they become disciples, listen to their teacher, stop being judgmental about others, recognize and repent of their own failings, and understand Jesus’ new teaching. Once they have accomplished this, they will bear good fruit. “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.”
One of the effects of Jesus’ teachings about the poor, about enemies, and about judging others is that as his disciples respond to Jesus’ teachings, they will become more loving. “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, … for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” When the disciples are fully trained, they will be like their teacher. Like Jesus, they will act out of love rather than acting out of ignorance.
Many years ago, a friend of mine made a visit to a spiritual community in Northern Caifornia. The main teacher in the community was Eknath Easwaran, a teacher of meditation who grew up in the Hindu tradition. When my friend returned, I talked to her on the phone. She said, “He’s the real thing, Jack.”
Finding spiritual teachers who are the real thing is no easy task. If teachers do not know themselves and what they are about very clearly, many problems can arise. Students can pursue false forms of development and even, in some cases, become victims of sexual or financial abuse. So, I said to her, “How do you know that?”
“When I was leaving, I said to him, ‘I really like what you have done here.’ And he said back, without batting an eye, ‘Everything you see here is the result of the grace of my grandmother.” Then my friend stopped talking.
I finally asked, “How does that make him the real thing?”
“You see, I threw a fastball at his ego, and he just let it go by. Instead, he told a story of grace. His consciousness is attuned to the world of grace, and he is comfortable articulating it.”
When she said this, I remembered reading about his grandmother in one of his writings. He called his grandmother his first spiritual teacher. In particular, I remembered one incident he wrote about.
Eknarth grew up in a little village in South India. One of the first lessons he learned in geography was that the earth is round. This was a very shocking revelation and even the teacher presented it in a diffident way. “You may not believe this, and if you don’t, I sympathize completely. But this is what they gave me to understand when I did my teacher’s training in Madras.”
When Eknarth went home and told his mother, she laughed in disbelief. When he would go off to school in the morning, she would sometime say, “Goodbye—and don’t slip off.” But when he told his grandmother what he had learned, she shot back, “What does it matter? You can be selfless whether the earth is round or square or triangular.”
That is the remark of a true spiritual teacher. When you are discombobulated, you should return to essentials. Find the foundation that can withstand the storm and stand there. If the earth is round or if it is flat, what is important is your ability to be selfless, to put others first. As long as that is not threatened, there is no need for confusion or fright.
“Everything you see here is the result of the grace of my grandmother.”
Many of us have had formal spiritual teachers and explicit training in the spiritual life. But all of us have had informal spiritual teachers. These are the people who have taught us essential truths about human living. It is good to recall them, to remember who they are and what they were able to give us. We should thank our teachers. If we live in gratitude for what we have been given, we will more freely and creatively give it away.
Selections from Breaking Open the Lectionary: Lectionary Readings in Their Biblical Context for RCIA, Faith Sharing Groups, and Lectors—Cycle C, by Margaret Nutting Ralph, Copyright © 2006 by Margaret Nutting Ralph. Paulist Press, Inc., New York/Mahwah, NJ. Reprinted by permission of Paulist Press, Inc. www.paulistpress.com
Spiritual Commentaries and Teachings are excerpted from The Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers by John Shea © 2004 by Order of Saint Benedict. Published by Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota. Used with permission.