First reading: Sir. 27:4–7
When a sieve is shaken, the husks appear; so do one’s faults when one speaks. As the test of what the potter molds is in the furnace, so in tribulation is the test of the just. The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does one’s speech disclose the bent of one’s mind. Praise no one before he speaks, for it is then that people are tested.
Second reading: 1 Cor. 15:54–58
Brothers and sisters: When this which is corruptible clothes itself with incorruptibility and this which is mortal clothes itself with immortality, then the word that is written shall come about:
Death is swallowed up in victory.
Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, 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 and sisters, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
Gospel: Lk. 6:39–45
Jesus told his disciples a parable, “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. 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 brother’s eye.
“A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
In other words Fr. Pio Estepa, SVD (Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City)
Where, O Death, is your sting? (1 Cor. 15:55)
I look at myself in the mirror and worry at the progressive graying of hair on my head and the spread of wrinkles on my face and neck. Painless though they are for my body, they sting my soul as grim warnings not only of irreversible aging but also of creeping mortality. That is not to say that older people come closer to death than younger ones do. A grave accident or some painful symptom of an undiagnosed illness can just as quickly raise the stinging question, “Doc, is it serious? Will I still recover?”
The worst “sting of death” is grief. It instinctively makes us raise questions for which no answers—however profound and poetic—can affectively satisfy. Why now? Why so sudden or cruel way? Why him or her and not me? Many more readily bear the grim prospect of their own death than the sudden loss of a beloved one—be it spouse or parent, sibling or friend.
Where, O Death, is your victory? (1 Cor. 15:55)
In the second reading of this Sunday, St. Paul sums up the heart of our Christian faith: Jesus—as any human—suffered death, but he rose anew as divine Savior! So anyone who lives by this “good news” will not be spared of death either, but can come to share in His Risen Life.
It is not impious to ask: Do faithful Christians really face death with less anguish and more courage than non-believers do? To this blunt question, we cannot honestly give a simple yes. For our faith makes no promise that God will spare us of the pains and griefs that come with dying or bereaving. Jesus himself was no stoic. He wept upon learning the decease of his dear friend Lazarus. St. Mark further reports that he raised a loud cry before exhaling his last breath on the cross.
Christian martyrs down the centuries have also cried in pain and shook with terror at the height of tortures. Yet, their prayerful union with the crucified Jesus assured them of his shepherding company through the cold dark night of death. Faithful living by the gospel bolstered their hope for the heavenly life after this earthly life, their hope for joyous communion with the saints around the Risen Christ. As with them, so can also be with us. Thus, St. Paul gladly concludes:
Thanks be to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 15:57)