The end of our journey occurs at the resurrection, when we will put off forever all that is limited, perishable and mortal. It will be at that point that we will be truly free and spiritually perfected. CNS artwork/Bridgeman Image

God's Word on Sunday: Resurrection will spiritually perfect us

  • February 20, 2022

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Feb. 27 (Sirach 27:4-7; Psalm 92; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45)

The four verses from Sirach may be short, but they pack quite a punch. The words that come from our mouths reveal more about us than we will ever know. This is one of the many reasons that the people of Israel took such care in what they uttered.

Blessings and curses were not idle words — they worked, for good or ill. Slander and gossip were — and are today — viewed as serious sins and were called by what they are: an evil tongue. Once negative, angry or evil words are spoken, they cannot be recalled or cancelled and they hurry out into the world to do their worst.

But on a less dramatic level, our words disclose what sort of person we really are. People take great care in their outward appearance — looks are everything, after all — but considerably less care in what is within. Good looks, elegant clothes, polished and impressive words and charm school training cannot cover up ignorance, prejudice, unkindness and selfishness for very long. Even in their subtle form, words can reveal contempt or disdain for others in many ways, be they racial, social, class, gender or age. Sometimes words reveal an alarming superficiality that is seasoned with ignorance. Add a couple of drinks to the equation and we may find out more than we would care to know about someone.

On the other hand, thoughtful and well-chosen words can reveal sensitivity, wisdom and depth in a person. Words of kindness and encouragement can flow from a loving and humble heart. It is helpful to think before we speak and not to fear pauses and silence. Part of the problem is the illusion that we always have to be saying something. And we can ask if the words that we are contemplating are necessary or helpful. It has been wisely said that intelligence is knowing what to say, while wisdom is knowing whether to say it.

Paul portrayed our journey to God as a long process of transformation. We are molded by our life experiences and our reactions to them, as well as by the values and principles we hold most dear. Part of this process is a shedding of earthly values and influences and a gradual spiritualizing of our mind and heart. The end of our journey occurs at the resurrection, when we will put off forever all that is limited, perishable and mortal. It will be at that point that we will be truly free and spiritually perfected. In the meantime, Paul counsels us to keep at it, being steadfast and zealous in the work of the Lord. It is all meaningful and valuable, so let us not lose heart.

Some individuals feel called to be the directors of other peoples’ lives. They are quick to correct, chastise, condemn or criticize — all for our own good, of course! Then there are those who harumph at the world in general and hurl thunderbolts at things not to their liking. Perhaps we are one of these individuals — many of us are, but in varying degrees. Jesus has some excellent advice: stop it! Not because it’s not nice — and it isn’t — but because most of the time we are dead wrong. We do not see clearly; the world we see is filtered through our own fears, prejudices, opinions and experiences. People recognize and condemn in others the faults that they have not recognized or accepted in themselves.

The Lord urges us to clean our own house first. Become self-aware; do some inner work and ask yourself if there is another way of looking at things. On a larger scale, as a society, nation and Church we are experiencing a painful lesson in collective self-knowledge as we acknowledge our own darkness, past mistakes and injustices.

Jesus ended His discourse by reminding us not to put too much stock in the claims that people or institutions make about themselves but to observe their deeds. Our actions, especially towards the powerless, vulnerable and those who are different — particularly when we think no one is looking — betray who we really are. Good actions flow from a good heart, pure and simple, and there is no pretending.