Our readings this week remind us of the importance of the need to put our faith into practice, and to live it out in our lives. Christianity affects who we are and how we live, it makes a difference. If we want to bear witness to Christ then our lives are a testament to what we believe: they proclaim our faith and show the world that another way is possible, and preferable. While it is hard to do this, with God’s help we are able to practise what we preach, and give an authentic witness.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus begins by telling a parable which seeks to criticise the Pharisees, and Religious Authorities of His day.
‘Jesus also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”’ (Lk 6:39-40)
The Pharisees are the blind leading the blind, teachers leading people the wrong way; blind to their own faults and shortcomings, yet judging others. They appear as hypocrites, as the teaching goes on to explain:
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye’, when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Lk 6:41-42)
To recognise that you have something in your own eye requires humility and self-examination to recognise your own failures and shortcomings before criticising others. Jesus here is clearly telling His followers not to be judgemental.
Jesus then goes on to point out the need to bear good fruit, using an analogy from the natural world:
“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” (Lk 6:43-44)
This vivid imagery is simple and straightforward. If we as Christians are to bear good fruit, then we need to live good lives. What we do matters, as well as what we say:
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” (Lk 6:45)
It is hard not to feel chastened by Our Lord. All of us recognise that we fall short of the high standard which Jesus sets. But we should not be too harsh on ourselves. God loves us. The more we rely upon God’s love, the more that love can transform us. We can, through God’s help, become people whose life and speech are characterised by love.
Jesus then rebukes those who say that they follow Him, but are not so keen to obey His commands:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’, and not do what I tell you?” (Lk 6:46)
This is recognisable human behaviour: we mean well, but often our actions let us down. Putting one’s faith into practice is difficult. We have to rely on God to help us. Jesus then explains His teaching with a parable:
“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Lk 6:47-49)
The two options are to build your house with or without foundations. Clearly the option with foundations is preferable. The weather of the previous week has clearly reinforced this point. We need to be built on rock, and as St Paul says:
‘the Rock was Christ.’ (1Cor 10:4)
If Christ is the rock upon which we build, then we do not need to fear what may happen, because we can rest secure in Him. A few verses later Paul states:
‘The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.’ (1Cor 10:16-17)
Our taking part in and receiving of the Eucharist is the way we are strengthened as Christians. It is the medicine for our souls. If we are nourished by Jesus then we can be built up in love and faith, and strengthened to bear witness to Christ. We need God’s grace to be at work in us, to build us up.
At its heart Christianity is a religion of transformation. In the Incarnation Christ became what we are, so that we might become what He is. God does not want us to stay as we are. When we encounter Him in prayer, in reading Holy Scripture, and in the Sacraments, we are changed by that encounter. We become something which we were not before. Our faith is deepened, we grow in holiness, and we reflect more fully the light of Him in whose image we were created.
So let us prepare to deepen our encounter with God as we approach the season of Lent, through self-examination, and prayer, so that we may grow in holiness. May we be firmly rooted in Christ, living out our faith to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. To whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever. Amen