Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Daily Readings:

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse remains; so a man’s filth remains in his thoughts. The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a man is in his reasoning. The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so the expression of a thought discloses the cultivation of a man’s mind. Do not praise a man before you hear him reason, for this is the test of men.

Sirach 27:4-7 RSVCE

Sieve What?!

Perhaps, like me, you’re wondering what the heck a “sieve” is right now. Well, it’s basically a strainer used to separate coarse or clumpy material from a finer or purer mixture. Here’s a link to some results if you need a mental picture. However, I was just told I’m probably the only person who didn’t know, so, yeah.

Obscure kitchenware aside, there’s a powerful message here about what kind of things we allow into our minds which, like a sieve, retains all that impure material. The author then goes on to suggest that our reasoning is affected by the types of material we’ve allowed to get trapped in our mind, and the fruits of our labors are a reflection of that corrupted reasoning.

Beach Toy Sieve

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ESV

A New Sieve

After awhile, our sieve begins to reflect what we’ve poured into it. Stains, lines, gunk- you name it. It certainly lacks that shiny innocent appearance it once had when it was new. We begin to experience a sort of “abuser’s remorse”. We’ve abused it for so long, that we begin to feel like it looks and it starts to lose it’s usefulness. So, it’s time to reforge that sieve.

I shall ransom them from the power of Sheol; I shall redeem them from Death. O Death, where are your plagues? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion is hidden from my eyes.

Hosea 13:14 ESV

By way of His Cross, Christ has given us what is necessary to redeem our sieve, cleansing it of all the trash we’ve tried to pour through it. In so doing, He works to renew it, not back to its original state, but better. This process isn’t magic, and in a way, it’s not free- although the necessary grace is freely given. There’s real suffering here, the purifying kind that helps cleanse and wash away all that which is not of God.

Good Fruits

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:39-45 ESV

The Pursuit of Christ-Likeness

From the beginning, Jesus knew we weren’t capable of leading ourselves to Heaven. So, in an unfathomable act of humility, He descended down and lived among us so that we may receive His words directly, and to guide us towards green pastures and still waters. He knew leaving us to our own devices was like the blind leading the blind. He also knew that with proper teaching, we could become like the teacher and take His message to the ends of the Earth.

Where Good Fruit Come From

Good, purified, hearts and minds provide good fruit, like the kind Jesus mentions in Luke. In other words, good fruit comes from good soil. Our hearts and minds are like soil, and how fertile that soil determines how good the fruits in our life can be. We cannot expect good fruit in our life if we aren’t willing to cultivate good soil for them to grow in.

Tilling Soil

I come from a multi-generational farming family, and if I’ve learned nothing else from them it’s that farming is hard work. Especially in Springtime when you start clearing away rocks, debris and then start tilling the soil in order to seed for eventual harvest. It’s hard, back-breaking, thankless work that you must suffer through if you want to taste the prosperity a good harvest brings.

Sometimes, in order to divert your mind from the hard labor at hand, you might look over to your neighbor’s field and joke about how far behind they are or how much junk is still scattered about their field. Maybe you even yell over and tease them a bit, or boast. However, every good farmer knows that the only way to get the work done is to get it done. Plain and simple, so there’s no time to waste watching your neighbor’s field. You keep pulling up rocks, clearing away nature’s attempts to thwart your efforts and loosening the ground. You suffer the many labors because you know the potential of what will come in just a few months- real food!

Suffering The Preparation

There still a lot of hard work to do, even after the spring blitz. Sometimes, just maintaining all the things you worked so hard for can be even harder. Tools you rely on breakdown, others get gunked up and need cleaning and it seems like every creature this world can throw at you wants to eat your precious crops. You have to protect them, continuously nurture them and sometimes you need to make hard choices. Blight can be a real problem.

Perhaps an apple tree in your orchard become infested with a bug or disease that could spread and affect every other tree. In this case, that tree, which you labored to plant and nurture, must be cut down and burned for the sake of the orchard. Sometimes entire fields can become blighted and need to be burned in order to save others. However, you carry on because you know the harvest is in sight.

Ready For Harvest

The reason why farmers work as hard as they do is because of that magical time of year: harvest season. The fruits of your labors are ripe for the picking, and nothing is better than that first feast you celebrate with family, friends and everyone else who labored to bring about this bountiful harvest. All winter long you survived on what food you could preserve in jars, a deep freezer and it’s simply not as good as when it was fresh. Although you are thankful for what little you have. Springtime is still largely fueled by what you have left, and what little you can grow quickly. Summertime is blessed with a few good crops, but it’s harvest time that brings the most bounty, and some of the best food. It’s also the most prosperous time of year, where the majority of your livelihood is gained.

The farmer’s spirit is renewed at harvest time, and his storehouse is filled in preparation for the winter to come. For now though, he rejoices and celebrates what God has given him.