SR-2019-03-03

SUNDAY MASS READINGS’ REFLECTIONS
8th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C) – March 3, 2019



8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: Our Testimony.

Testimony is defined as the evidence or proof provided by the existence or appearance of something. A Christian testimony should not just include our conversion experience, but should also include the ways in which the Lord is working in our lives to sanctify us for His service.

Our testimony consists of three parts: character, conduct, and conversation. As Christians, we rightly place great emphasis on crafting a solid personal account of the Lord’s work in our life. We also talk about the ways that we can show Jesus Christ to our friends, family, and coworkers through our actions. But character is the part of every believer’s testimony that underlies both Christlike behavior and an honest life story. In general, what we do and say represents the kind of person we are on the inside. You cannot trick God into thinking your character is righteous if it isn’t. Nor can you fake moral conduct or conversation with people for very long. Sooner or later, a proud, bitter, or unkind spirit yields behavior and speech contrary to the Christian message. But godly character produces real spiritual fruit.

“For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience.” (2 Corinthians 1:12)


Reading 1 – Sirach 27:4-7     In our conversation is the test of the person.

Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 92:2-3, 13-16     Thanksgiving to God.

Reading 2 – 1 Corinthians 15:54-58     Thanks be to God who has given us the victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Gospel – Luke 6:39-45     Each tree is known by its yield.


This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal, LoyolaPress.com, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.

NOTE: The Lectionary Bible Readings for this Sunday – Readings 1 & 2, Responsorial Psalm, and the Gospel, all appear in purple in the following. Footnotes are included in these passages and the contents of all the footnotes appear at the end of this document. 

Reading 1     Sirach 27:4-7                        (Revealing Speech)              

Context – Sirach is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (aka. Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom)). It’s one of the Books of the Apocrypha, and was written in 180 BC by a teacher of Old Testament law. It is a work of ethical teachings from approximately 200 to 180 BC. The teachings are applicable to all conditions of life: to parents and children, to husbands and wives, to the young, to friends, to the rich, and to the poor. Many of them are rules of courtesy and politeness; and a still greater number contain advice and instruction as to our duties toward ourselves and others, especially the poor, as well as toward society and the state, and most of all toward God.

Today’s Reading – This reading has four proverbs (a short wise saying that expresses a general truth for practical, godly living). In different ways, each of the proverbs states that our speech is a sure key for others to evaluate our character. Words a person speaks help the listener to sift through the chaff of outward appearances and first impressions and to arrive at the speaker’s true self. A person’s words are a testimony showing us what kind of person he or she is.


When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks. [i]
As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.
[ii]
The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind.
[iii]
Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.
[iv]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Responsorial Psalm –     Psalm 92:2-3, 13-15                               (Thanksgiving to God)

This psalm encourages us to give praise and thanksgiving to God.


R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praise to Your name, Most High, To proclaim Your kindness at dawn and Your faithfulness throughout the night.
[v]
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow. They that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.
They shall bear fruit even in old age; vigorous and sturdy shall they be, Declaring how just is the LORD, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong.
R. – Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Reading 2     1 Corinthians 15:54-58                       (Victory through Christ)                 

Context – Corinth was the meeting point of many nationalities because the main current of the trade between Asia and western Europe passed through its harbors. Paul started the Church at Corinth in 51 AD and stayed there only briefly to get things started. Five years after the establishment of this Church, trouble arose including: internal divisions, immorality, denials of the Resurrection, and liturgical carelessness. Paul’s pastoral guidance was needed to restore peace and unity by fortifying their commitment to Jesus Christ. Paul’s first Letter to the Corinthians takes aim throughout at two vices that underlie the Corinthians’ struggles: pride and selfishness. His second letter to the Corinthians was written to prevent them from falling prey to false prophets.    

Today’s Reading – In and through Jesus’ Resurrection, sin and death have been overcome. Christ has defeated the power of sin and so has taken the sting out of death. This should spur us on to persevere in doing the Lord’s work. Our testament shows just how well we are doing the Lord’s work.


Brothers and sisters: When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about: [vi] “Death is swallowed up in victory”. (Isaiah 25:8). “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (Hosea 13:14) The sting of death is sin [vii], and the power of sin is the law. [viii] But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. [ix]

Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [x]


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.


Gospel     Luke 6:39-45                     (The Heart Speaks)

Context – Luke was a physician and a follower of Paul. His Gospel was written in 59-61 AD and he also wrote the Book of Acts. Luke’s gospel includes Jesus words and works in Galilee, His journey to Jerusalem, and His last week in Jerusalem. For later chapters of Luke: Jesus is now in Jerusalem for His passion; He has made His triumphal entry which we celebrate on Passion (Palm) Sunday; He has upset the establishment by cleansing the temple. The Pharisees, scribes, and Sadducees are all now interested in getting rid of Him. He identifies three epochs of salvation history: the time before Christ, the time of Christ, and the time of the Church and the Holy Spirit. And the two primary themes of his Gospel are: the Christian faith is expressed in one’s actions, and the call to salvation is extended to everyone, Jews and Gentiles. The emblem for St. Luke was given the symbol of an ox (a sacrificial animal) because he speaks of Christ most of all as the Great High Priest who brought Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (“the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”). St. Luke died a martyr’s death in Achaia (Greece).

Today’s Reading – The passage has four short parables. As with Reading 1, we are called to examine our speech and deeds (i.e. our testimony) for they usually reflect what is in our heart.


Jesus told His disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? [xi] 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.” (i.e. our testimony)


PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you.          ”Jesus told His disciples a parable” – Parables are usually short fictitious stories that illustrate a moral attitude or a religious principle. Parable comes from a Greek word meaning “beside” and “to throw”. A parable, then, is a teaching in which one thing is thrown beside another, a comparison. The purpose of the parable is to bring the listener to concede a point which they do not perceive as applicable to themselves. In addition, the parable whets the curiosity and attracts attention; the listener is trapped because of their desire to hear how the story comes out. The prophets and Jesus taught the crowds mostly by means of parables. Parables were and still are profound tools when teaching and learning about the mysterious. The meanings of parables are not self-evident. The hearer must engage in some degree of reflection in order to comprehend the message of a parable. Parables are the theological yeast for intelligent religious reflection. Some familiar parables are: the Sower, the Shepherd, the Bridegroom, the Weeds Among the Wheat, the Prodigal Son, the Ten Talents, the Unforgiving Servant, the Speck and the Log, the Rich Fool, the Persistent Widow, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Catechism 2472 – The duty of Christians to take part in the life of the Church impels them to act as witnesses of the Gospel and of the obligations that flow from it. This witness is a transmission of the faith in words and deeds. Witness is an act of justice that establishes the truth or makes it known.

All Christians by the example of their lives and the witness of their word, wherever they live, have an obligation to manifest the new person which they have put on in Baptism and to reveal the power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at Confirmation.


[i] Reading 1 Footnotes:
“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks.” = When grain is harvested, the plantings are cut from the field and then put into a sieve which is then shaken. This process extracts the grain (the good stuff) from the rest of its stock, i.e. the refuse – leaves, stems, and husks (the bad stuff). When one looks at a person their thoughts cannot always be determined. But when one’s mouth (read “sieve”) is opened by one’s mind and heart (read “shaken”), sometimes bad words /thoughts (read “husks”) are spoken.
[ii] “As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just.” = If the molded clay isn’t completely dry and without air pockets, the piece explodes in the kiln (furnace). The “potter” is us, the “mold” is a reflection of who we have become in life by our thoughts, words, and deeds. When we experience tribulations, our reactions show whether we (the “mold”) are either just or flawed (have “air pockets that blow up”).
[iii]The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had;” = As an example, sycamore fruit has to be punctured to grow fat and juicy; this is the job of the “dresser of sycamores.” So the quality of the sycamore fruit is a reflection upon the quality of work (read “care”) of the “dresser of sycamores” (of course nature – rain, temperature, and soil are also factors). Another example, our children (read “our fruit”) are a reflection upon the quality of our parenting (read “our care”) (of course culture is also a factor).
[iv] “Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.” = Speech is the principal criterion for evaluating a person, just as long as we temper it with possible extenuating circumstances and civility. Otherwise, speech can lead to polarization.
[v] Responsorial Psalm Footnote:
Lord, it is good to give thanks to You.” = It is appropriate to thank and praise God because of the good things He has done for His people. He is faithful to His word and lovingly loyal to His people.
[vi] Reading 2 Footnotes:
“When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:” = When the bodies of the elect, by resurrection or change, become incorruptible or immortal, the last enemy, death, will have been vanquished.
[vii] ‘The sting of death is sin.” = Death entered the world (i.e. death was caused by) through sin (Romans 5:12).
[viii]the power of sin is the law” = The “power of sin” is relative/synonymous to the “consequences of sin”. Saint Paul suggests that the law gave sin its power by giving a knowledge of God’s commandments and threatening death to a sinner.
[ix] “But thanks be to God who gives us the victory (over sin) through our Lord Jesus Christ.” = The new covenant replaces the old. Sin can now be forgiven and forgotten.
[x] “Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” = The hard work of the Christian life is not in vain, because the Christian is “in the Lord” who has already won the victory over sin and death.
[xi] Gospel Footnote:
“Can a blind person guide a blind person?” = This relates to the disciples who are “blind” until they have their eyes opened by Jesus’ teaching. Once they have learned to apply the teaching, they will be able to teach others.