Today’s readings remind us that if we truly want to recognize, do, and praise the good that we and others do we need Our Lord’s help and the wisdom to not judge a book by its cover.
In today’s First Reading Sirach teaches us that the truth worth of anyone, including ourselves, is when a trial by fire shakes us up and makes us show who we truly are and how we live. He focuses on a person’s words being the true measurement of their faults or virtue. Appearances are not enough. He gives three examples of a process for evaluating the worth of a “fruit.” With the sieve you sift out the undesirable, which remains in the sieve and lets the desirable pass through. With the firing of pottery it adopts its definitive form and strength, or its definitive deformation and flaws. With cultivating a fruit tree it’s easy to see whether you’re successful or not: good and abundant fruit, or a withered tree with little to no fruit. In all three of these processes it is the result that matters. The process doesn’t automatically produce a good outcome, just like we or others aren’t automatically good or evil.
In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that it is thanks to Our Lord that this process of telling good from evil, even among the well-intentioned, is not in vain. Our corruptibility and mortality due to Original Sin would lead to spiritual as well as physical death if left to their own devices. Original Sin disfigured us, but also disfigured our view of good and evil. We need help to correct it. Paul encourages us to see that Our Lord will clothe that corruptibility with incorruptibility: the grace that transforms us and heals us from the wounds of Original Sin, although we still are subjected to weakness and temptation in this life, in eternity we will be purified of it, once and for all. Our Lord clothes our mortality with immortality by sowing the seed of eternal life in us from the moment we believe and are baptized. His victory over death swallowed it up for himself and for us. If we persevere in Christ we will share in his victory over sin and death.
Our Lord in today’s Gospel reminds us that we must try to see and live clearly before helping others, or it will be a case of the blind leading the blind. He also warns us that being a “bad boy,” despite how culture today paints it, is never a good thing. If a blind man were to offer to help you cross the street you would either charitably decline, think he was crazy, or maybe convince yourself he had super powers. We live in a society where people seek the virtuous thing to do, the logical thing to do, or the craziest thing to do, and are willing to get advice from or give advice to anyone. We have to invest time, prayer, and reflection to determine the solid foundation on which to live and to be guided. We can’t just invent this on our own: we need help from Our Lord, and we need help from solid people and solid traditions. If someone recognizes something to be evil, they avoid it; that is Ethics 101. That is why evil often tries to masquerade as good, to appear glamorous. Our Lord teaches us not to judge people, but he does teach us to judge actions: evil people do evil things, just as good people do good things.
Sirach teaches us this week that the just are tried by fire. Assess how you faced your last trial (if you’re currently undergoing a trial, put that on hold, since it is not resolved yet—the aftermath is just as important). Evaluate that trial starting outward with all the others involved or affected, as well as the circumstances, and then move in to yourself, all the way into your heart and your conscience. Today’s readings give you several ways to assess your handling of the trial. Did you profit from the wisdom of others or their foolishness in facing the trial? Did wisdom or foolishness come out of your mouth as a result? Did this trial end up making others better, nobler, holier? Did make you better, nobler, holier? Did it help you identify the good and evil in your life and in others’ lives?