People's Words and Actions

02-27-2022Pastoral ReflectionsRev. Brian F. Manning

It is striking that the overall message of the scripture this weekend is that we are asked to look beyond appearances to actions. Our first reading makes this very clear. Ben Sirach, a teacher, tells his students who are listening that the criteria for judging a person are the words he or she speaks and their actions. Someone may appear to be very sophisticated or together, but we need to hold back before we decide that person should be emulated. We simply need to pause and wait for them to speak because what they are truly worth will be shown in their expressed thoughts by their very own words.

Ben Sirach tells us to watch out for what we say because our words will show what we really think and value. Our Gospel this weekend is a continuation of the Sermon on the Plain (FYI: Luke’s interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount) and it tells us that there is often a great difference between appearance and reality. Jesus expresses to us that what we truly believe in and what really drives us will be clear in our spoken words and actual actions. It makes sense the image of judging the worth of a tree by the fruit it produces tells us that we can judge the worth of a person by the way he or she acts. Jesus is inviting us to be very wise in our judgment of others while at the same time He is telling us that our own character will show itself in the way we act toward others.

Our second reading from the Letter of Paul to the Corinthians tells us that we have got to walk our talk and always to be steadfast and firm in our compassionate service to others. We know that this may all be very difficult to do and may not feel rewarding, but doing so transforms our soul or being and will ultimately lead us to the fullness of life with God.

In book stores we can see many, many books which are attractive and appealing due to the design of their cover. Sometimes we buy these books to read simply because the cover attracted us and then we end up disappointed with the inside. We have all heard many times about judging a book by its cover, but sometimes we still do not pay attention to this truth. Our culture encourages us to make snap judgments. Our culture does not support us taking the time to think things out. It encourages us to use stereo types which can often be wrong. Much of our data today is processed through algorithms to theorize new knowledge. Unfortunately preconceived mathematical formulas are often not correct about the human heart and spirit. Appearances and preset formulas sometimes work, but not always.

Note, not everyone who can say all their prayers in a pious way is a saint nor is anyone who cannot say their prayers completely a sinner. Good looks or public piety does not guarantee holiness or saintliness. Faith and holiness are a lot more than how it looks. They are located deeper in the human heart and show themselves in people’s words and actions.