What’s in My Heart? – Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time
Every now and then, I see a scripture passage that jumps out at me and surprises me, as if I had never before heard it. Such is the case today with the very short First Reading, from Sirach. I have no recollection of having read it, let alone seeing it used at Sunday Mass. But I know that I’m mistaken.
“When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears; so do one’s faults when one speaks. The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of the just person is in tribulation. Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of the mind. Do not praise someone before they speak, for this is the way people are tested.”
Our scripture readings use the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. With today’s reading, I prefer the translation found in the New American Bible Revised Edition, as used by the US Catholic Church.
“When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do people’s faults when they speak. The furnace tests the potter’s vessels; the test of a person is in conversation. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so speech discloses the bent of a person’s heart. Praise no one before he speaks; for it is then that people are tested.”
The Book of Sirach is part of the wisdom material in the Old Testament. The few wisdom sayings here speak for themselves and each can teach us something. They need to be balanced by taking a look at people’s actions, not just their words. Words and actions have their basis in the ways of the heart.
There is a link with the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel. “Each tree is known by its own fruit.” And, more significantly, “It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.” What is in our hearts today? If we are human, we know that our heart is filled with plenty: love and hate; stillness and anxiety; gratitude and ingratitude; resentment and patient acceptance.
I like these words from Fr. Brian (Buzz) Massie, a Jesuit who was involved in pastoral ministry in Canada and Jamaica. He offered these words at Camp Ekon in the summer of 1996.
“Gratitude is a wonderful virtue that God allows us to have. To be able to be thankful and to keep a sense of gratitude inside us is a wonderful gift. You can’t be grateful and be selfish or mean at the same time; there is no room in your heart. If you are truly grateful for the blessings you have received, then you are not jealous or envious, you’re not petty, you’re not small.”
We are just a few days away from the Season of Lent. This is a season to help us purify what is in our hearts, to bring discernment to all that is in our hearts.