October 22, 2019

We Are Known By Our Fruit

The last line in our first reading for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time says, “Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.” (Sirach 27:7) And the last line in our Gospel says, “From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

The most common lesson that is drawn from this teaching is summarized for us in both of these readings. “One’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind.” (Sirach 27:6) And, “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good.” (Luke 6:45) In other words, the secrets of the heart are revealed by the words one speaks; and, conversely, hypocrisy is rooted in falsehood and deception. It matters not whether one’s speech is sweet or sour. A tree is known by its fruit.

But before we all jump to the assumption of that being the only lesson that we are to derive from that teaching, I would like to call your attention to a different interpretation or application of that lesson; that being one of compassion and understanding. 

For example, we all, at one time or another, have been confronted by someone who just happened to be extremely rude, disagreeable or unpleasant. It is very easy, at times like that, for us to jump to conclusions about that individual. But every time that experience happens to me, I can’t help but remember a statement that one of my college professors made to us one day in our psychology class. He said, “Every obnoxious quality that you experience in another human being is an expression of pain.”

Think about that for a minute. It is impossible for any one of us to be perfectly pleasant and agreeable when we are hurting inside. So when we encounter that unpleasant individual, we have no right to judge him or her, because we have no idea what is, or has been, happening in their life. We all want to be loved and accepted by others. But sometimes situations or events in a person’s life can have a strong influence on how they behave and interact with others. For example, physical or mental illnesses, significant emotional events, or certain experiences in those early formative years can have a strong influence on one’s behavior. 

Remember, each and every one of us was created as a unique individual. There has never been, and there never will be, another person exactly like me, or exactly like you. In spite of our differences, our job in this life is to be all that God created us to be. And in that process, we are to love one another as God loves us. Just last week we heard Jesus tell us to, “Love our enemies and do good to them. And He said we are to lend expecting nothing in return. We are to be merciful just as our Father is merciful. We are not to judge. We are to forgive. We are not to condemn. And we are to give generously.” (Luke 6:35-38)

So when we experience that unpleasant individual, none of us has the right to judge them; because we have no idea what is, or has been, going on in their life. But we are commanded to love them. But sometimes, for our own physical and mental well being, it may be necessary for us to love that someone from a distance.

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Written by
Deacon Donald Cox

REVEREND MR. DONALD COX is a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Detroit. On June 9, 1979, Deacon Don was ordained to the diaconate by His Eminence John Cardinal Dearden, an important American Father of the Second Vatican Council. He is currently assigned to St. Cornelius parish in Dryden, Michigan. Married and the father of three children and grandfather to four children, Deacon Don was born and raised in Detroit, and educated at St. Brigid Elementary School, Mackenzie High School, and Lawrence Technological University. His theological training was taken at Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary.

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Written by Deacon Donald Cox
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