THE GLORY THAT WILL BE OURS
Sunday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time ©
My dear encountered couples:
A man was walking down the road when he spied a farmer. He approached him and said, “Sir, I have traveled a long way and am thinking of settling in the next town. Tell me, what kind of people are there?” The farmer asked, “What kind of people were in the town you left?” The man replied, “Oh, it wasn’t so good. The people there were selfish, indifferent, just out for themselves. Couldn’t care less about you or what happened.” The farmer said, “You’ll find the same kind of folks in the next town.” The man thanked him and went in another direction.
Later that day, another traveler passed by and said to the farmer, “Sir, I have traveled a long way and am thinking of settling in the next town. Tell me, what kind of people are there?” The farmer asked, “What kind of people were in the town you left?” The man replied, “It was hard to leave. The people sang with you in the good times and helped you in the bad times. It wasn’t perfect, but the people were basically good and friendly.” The farmer said, “You’ll find the same kind of folks in the next town.” (From A World of Stories by William J. Bausch)
Imagine that one of these travelers will be moving into your neighborhood – right next door to you. There is probably very little question as to which one you would prefer as your new neighbor. Just the few words from each of the characters in the story and you know the one you would choose.
The words of the reading from Sirach ring true, “The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one's speech disclose the bent of one's mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.”
In today’s gospel it is Jesus who is speaking and teaching his disciples. He has spoken about judging others and failing to recognize the faults in one’s own life. And Jesus concludes his teaching when he says, “for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Jesus has made his point. Words so often are only signs of what is really going on inside a person, what is really in that person’s heart. Now Jesus has the disciples where he wants them – and where he wants us. The focus, the attention, is on the heart – and that is what Jesus is really concerned about.
Jesus wasn’t simply trying to get people to “watch their words” or “hold their tongues.” He wanted the disciples, then and now, to be in touch with what is happening in the heart. We can listen to ourselves, to our conversations and discussions – and we can pretty much know what is in our heart. We might find bitterness; we might find jealousy; we might find a kind of emptiness or sadness; we might find genuine joy and peace, or we might find a real brokenness. Words, or sometimes our lack of words, so often betray what is going on in our hearts.
This week we will begin the season of Lent. We might immediately think of the things we do or try not to do during Lent, but today gives us the best preparation for Lent – Jesus’ invitation to be in touch with our hearts!
And the wonderful thing about the human heart is that it can change. And that is the best kind of Lent, the best use of this season of conversion and change. Jesus was a wonderful teacher. He teaches us today how to be in touch with our deepest selves, our heart – we simply listen to ourselves, to the words of our conversations, our remarks, our comments, our joking.
All these words give us a clue as to what is in our heart – and if we are not pleased with what we find, then we know we can change.
Sometimes this will mean that we remove something from our hearts, and sometimes it will mean that we try to fill our hearts with a new awareness of God’s love and forgiveness. Just listen to yourself and you will know what Lent should be for you.