Fr. John Louis homily for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
Theme: SPIRITUAL SELF-DEVELOPMENT
By: Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis
Homily for Sunday February 17 2022
READINGS: Sirach 27:4-7/ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58/ Luke 6:39-45
The first and gospel readings provide us with some lessons about spiritual self-development as well as how to identify misleading leaders. In this homily, we wish to focus on the former. Here, spiritual self-development does not refer to developing spiritually solely by one’s effort. Rather, it means developing oneself spiritually with the help of God’s grace. Six aspects of spiritual self-development could be derived from today’s readings.
Several images can be found in the readings: a tree, a log, a speck, an eye, the blind, a disciple, a teacher, the heart, the mind, etc. However, the imagery of a tree seems to be predominant; so, we will use it to illustrate the various aspects of spiritual self-development.
Firstly, a tree has roots without which it cannot draw nutrients from the soil nor be able to stand firm. Similarly, in the tree of self-development, humility is our main root. Thus, Jesus reminds us of our humble status as disciples: “A disciple is not above the teacher” (Luke 6:40). By humility, we are able to draw the spiritual nutrient of God’s grace. Also, as roots give stability to a tree, so humility enables us to have a steady spiritual development. Humility is, indeed, a solid starting point of spiritual development with the help of grace.
Secondly, a tree has leaves. They are vital to its growth through photosynthesis; yet, they are normally fragile or feeble. Similarly, in the tree of self-development, our weaknesses are like the leaves. We should, therefore, be conscious of our personal weaknesses, and strive to overcome them with the help of God’s grace. Our Lord Jesus Christ draws attention to our weaknesses, referring to them as blindness. He asks: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39). That is, we cannot presume to be capable of helping others to overcome their weaknesses when we have not been able to deal with ours. Worse still, when our weaknesses are greater, we seem to ignore them. Hence, our Lord admonishes us: “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye” (Luke 6:42). We must attend to our weaknesses because, with the help of God’s grace, we can turn them into strengths, just as leaves are vital to the growth of a tree.
Thirdly, there is the stem of the tree, which is the channel for the nutrients and provides stability to the branches, leaves, and fruits. The purity of the interior of the stem is important for it to convey pure nutrients and to remain a strong support for the branches, etc. In the tree of self-development, the purity of our thoughts aids our growth like a stem with a pure interior (cf. Sir. 27:4). Thus, Jesus affirms: “The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil” (Luke 6:45).
Fourthly, a tree has branches that provide direct support for its leaves and fruits. Similarly, in the tree of self-development, the good branch is the purity of our speech, which results from the purity of thoughts. Thus, the first reading affirms: “the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind” (Sir. 27:6). Jesus, in turn, says that “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
Fifthly, there are the fruits of the tree that show its goodness or otherwise and serve as food. Similarly, in the tree of self-development, our actions reveal our good or poor growth. Thus, according to the first reading, “the fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree” (Sir. 27:6). Jesus expresses the same point as follows: “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit” (Luke 6:43). Let us, therefore, endeavor to bear good fruits with the help of God’s grace.
Sixthly, a tree may experience harsh weather; if it is able to withstand it, it may continue to yield good fruits. Therefore, the sixth aspect of spiritual development is the ability to withstand or bear difficulties. The first reading elucidates this: “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels, so the test of just men is in tribulation” (Sir. 24:5). May we grow stronger in spirit as we endure the hardships of life!
Conclusion: By the nourishment of God’s grace, may our humility be a deep root, may our weaknesses be turned into strengths as weak leaves generate vitality to a tree, may our thoughts be pure like the pure interior of a stem, may our speech be pure like the inner purity of a good branch, and so bear fruits of good actions! Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis