Sir 27:4-7; 1 Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45.

There is no shortage of preaching material this week when one considers the many sewn together sayings in the Scripture passages of Sirach and Luke.

Also, one should note that this weekend is prime time for prepping the minds and the hearts of the faithful for the upcoming Season of Lent. Why wait until Ash Wednesday for a Lenten pep-talk?

Here are some thoughts on various verses. Perhaps one or all may preach for you.

Jesus told them a parable -- Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?

Obviously the person who should be leading a blind individual is a person with sight. What constitutes a person with sight in this context? Perhaps it is a person who has knowledge of the faith seeing how it precedes a verse which speaks of disciples and teachers. There are times when we are blind and are in need of guidance -- enlightenment -- and there are times when we find ourselves in the role of guide. Some obvious questions that we may ask ourselves are -- If I am the blind person in this situation, have I picked a good and sturdy guide? And, If I am the guide in this situation, am I truly a person who has the required sight to be a good guide? Do we need to be better guides? Have we thought about furthering our religious education to, indeed, be a better guide?

On another level this may preach using the question -- Are the people we hanging around with life-giving, light-giving, enlightening, etc. Do we feel better about our faith, our relationship with God, our relationship with the Church, etc., because of the company we keep? Or, is the company we are keeping causing us to fall into a pit? Are we in the pits? We can be greatly effected by our environments and the people therein. Is it time to make a change for the better?

No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.

One may look at this Jesus-saying and think -- Ah, I get it -- Do not get above yourself! However, one may also look at these words as very encouraging. That is, Jesus encourages us to be like him. We are encouraged to be powerful teachers of the faith. Sure, it takes training and hard work. Nevertheless, Jesus spurs us on to embrace the responsibility we all have to spread and pass down our faith -- and to do it well.

Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,' when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brothers eye.

It is obvious throughout the Gospels that Jesus is far more perturbed by the self-righteous than by blatant sinners. He takes on the self-righteous whether they be scribes, Sadducees, pharisees, or high priests using venomous words. However, it is with the tax collectors and sinners that he dines.

Jesus clearly allows room for fraternal correction in this passage. He acknowledges that there are times that it is indeed appropriate to remove a splinter from the eye of a brother; however, how this is done makes all the difference in the world. If it is done in a self-righteous, hypocritical, arrogant manner then look out! Here comes Jesus! An honest self-assessment of ones sinfulness and brokenness should lead one to correct or assist a brother or sister in need with compassion and love. We should not water down the gravity of the situation at hand; however the words we choose, the tone in which we choose to deliver them, the setting in which we choose to deliver them, and the time during which we choose to deliver them are supremely important. Do we stop and take a time out to ponder these factors when we are about to remove a splinter? Have we acknowledged and removed our beams first?

Sirach 27:6. The speech of a man discloses the bent of his mind.

I have been praying with this verse this week because I think it challenges us all to ponder our own speech. Simply put -- how often do we use God-language in our lives? When do we invoke the name of Jesus? When do we speak about our Church? When do we speak about our faith? When do we acknowledge our practice of prayer? In short, what is our daily speech disclosing about us? If we were to tape record everything we spoke in a day and then listen to it before going to bed what could be inferred from our speech and our choice of conversational topics?

In the coming Season of Lent we are asked to take a hard look at our prayer-lives, our works of charity, our relationships with God, and our ability to fast for the purpose of focusing our energies on spiritual exercises and a renewed dependence upon God.

Perhaps some of the above thoughts could be woven into a pep-talk of sorts to encourage the faithful to start preparing now. It is time to find a good and trusted guide. It is time to improve our own ability to Guide. it is time to become more like Jesus. It is time to admit our own sinfulness and brokenness and to help others on their way to reconciliation with words of compassion and love.

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