Our Lord entrusts the mission of leading souls to the Kingdom of Heaven to the humble, since they recognize their own insufficiency. It is for this reason that their efforts for the salvation of souls are crowned with good fruit.


Gospel of the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

39 Jesus told His disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? 40 No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? 42 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.

43 “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles. 45 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” (Lk 6:39-45).

I – The Need for a Sure Guide

In a world where true charity toward others is becoming a rarity as egoism takes centre stage, many people face the hardship of going through life without someone to show them the path to true happiness. Prof. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira comments: “I remember going for walks as a child, and often seeing a dog on the street without an owner. Once, I saw my grandmother scolding a rebellious grandson, saying: ‘Go ahead! Be like a dog without a master if you want.’ Suddenly, the misfortune of not being guided fully struck my spirit. The joy of being guided is precisely that of a faithful person who has someone in whom to deposit his faithfulness. It is the joy of every man who has a sense of hierarchy, a sense of order and a sense of discipline.”1

The desire of being taught and the search for a sure guide is a characteristic of upright souls, who feel their own contingency and natural inability to reach the sublime heights of Revelation alone. They turn to those who have received the mandate to teach in the name of God, desiring to be instructed by them in the ways of salvation. The role of those charged with this task is to indicate the right path, without deviating from the precepts of religion, turning aside to neither the right hand or to the left (cf.1 Mc 2: 22).

The Church, guide of souls

More than to any single individual called to lead souls, God has entrusted this mission to the Holy Catholic Church, linking the salvation of all souls to the Petrine ministry. To be guided on this earth means, then, to be led by the Church, to open oneself to the light that flows from her and to the abundant graces she dispenses to humanity. It is up to evangelizers to be true guides, showing mankind the compass of truth, and in this way, setting those entrusted to them on the path of holiness. They must remember, however, that their role is that of mere instruments; attributing everything to the Church’s care.

This fundamental principle is one of the most important teachings contained in the Gospel of the Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time.

II – Source or Instrument?

After transmitting the doctrine of the Beatitudes and preaching on loving one’s enemies, Our Lord adds some parables before concluding the Sermon on the Mount, which is often compared in importance to the promulgation of the Old Law on Mount Sinai. His final teachings touch on those called to the apostolate, who bear the serious responsibility of the salvation of their neighbour and the perfect transmission of the doctrine that He brought into the world. The fact that these exhortations follow closely on Jesus’ most sublime teachings suggests the importance of human instruments in spreading the Faith and their personal fidelity to the doctrine of the Gospel.

The blind leading the blind

39 Jesus told His disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?”

In this parable, through an eloquent spiritual application, the Divine Master emphasizes the folly of accepting direction from someone who cannot see. Those who set out on the apostolate without leading souls to Our Lord, wanting only to enjoy the prestige and fame usually garnered by bearers of the truth are the blind of the Kingdom of God. Such blindness stems from a serious discrepancy in visualization, as a contemporary exegete asserts: “Jesus refers to another type of blindness, the blindness of those who do not see events or people with God’s eyes, and yet claim to speak in His place.”2 Those who are called to evangelize – all the baptized, therefore – play the role of models, true guides for those who have not been illuminated by the light of grace. Their words, their spiritual outlook and their personal example will serve as a paradigm for others, who will see in them the embodiment of the virtues and Christian doctrine they profess. The integrity of the lives of fervent souls can even awaken admiration for the Most Sacred Person of Jesus, as was observed among the Christians in the corrupt Roman Empire: “See how they love one another,”3 commented the pagans, witnessing the practice of fraternal charity for the first time. The Apostle recognizes the power of example when he reminds the Corinthians: “We have become a spectacle to the world, to Angels and to men” (1 Cor 4: 9). And he tells the first community of believers at Philippi to “shine as lights in the world” (Phil 2: 15).

The parable of the blind guides, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder – Museum of Capodimonte, Naples (Italy)

This vital teaching applies most especially to the figure of the priest, and demands that those casting the nets of the apostolate be very closely bound to the Divine Master. Leading souls to the Kingdom of Heaven means radiating the supernatural, communicating the joy that inundates the soul of those who know Jesus, who live from His life and who experience the outpouring of His goodness. It is through contact with Him who promised to draw all men to Himself (cf. Jn 12: 32) that we are called to bring the Good News of salvation to the world. St. Thomas Aquinas, citing Dionysius Areopagite, transcribes this noble thought: “Dionysius said: ‘even as the more subtle and clear essences being filled by the outpouring of the solar radiance, like the sun, enlighten other bodies with their brilliant light, so in all things pertaining to God a man must not dare to become a leader of others, unless in all his habits he be most deiform and godlike.’”4 Otherwise, we will be as the blind leading the blind, usurping the evangelizing mission and deceiving those whom God wants to benefit. If we cut ourselves off from the divine roots, we will fall into error, and run the risk of leading those whom we guide into condemnation. This is why Dom Chautard says of those who are vigilant and do not allow themselves to be swept away by the errors of false guides: “Men have every right to be exacting and to ask much of those who offer to teach how to lead a new life. And they are quick to discern if their works measure up to their words, or if the moral theories which they so willingly display are nothing more than a lying front. It is on the basis of their observations in this matter that they will give him their confidence or refuse it.”5

Spiritual blindness

Catholic doctrine teaches that the purpose of every evangelizing mission is to lead souls to Our Lord Jesus Christ: “The transmission of the Christian Faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ, in order to lead others to faith in Him.”6 However, throughout history, not a few people have turned this high mission into a lever for achieving personal goals, using the privileges due to proclaimers of Christ, to proclaim themselves, becoming spiritually blind. Called by vocation – often authentic, but sometimes questionably so – to instruct others, these blind guides judge that they have understood the truth more fully than anyone else. Such a full understanding can enrich the Church when it is authentic, but when it does not come from God, it becomes a spiritual cataract in the eyes of the soul. This blindness becomes manifest when such pseudo-guides refuse to accept correction, or admit to any fault pointed out to them. They never acknowledge their doctrine or their conduct as being subject to error.

As a contemporary theologian points out, “if these ‘guides,’ either official or pretended, ignore the primary requirement springing from the Gospel […], if they wish to impose requirements upon the community that Jesus the Master did not prescribe, they declare themselves to be bad disciples. Being blind, they cannot but lead to failure the community that allows itself to be blinded by this teaching.”7 Accordingly, when the apostle who is called to guide others takes Our Lord’s place and puts himself in the spotlight, he will invariably lead them astray. He will be held accountable on Judgment Day for having steered his followers into the abyss, for his obligation was to lead them to a good end by showing them the path to true happiness.

Characteristics of a true disciple

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

Our Lord then sketches the profile of a true disciple, comparing the attitude of one who is blind with one who has perfect vision. With His superb didactic method, He first impresses the multitude negatively with the image of those who do not see, so as to then demonstrate the moral perfection of the faithful disciple’s conduct, so that the superiority of the latter is made even stronger by force of contrast.

He teaches that a well-formed disciple, developing all of his qualities, becomes an overflow of the master. This language was perfectly adapted to a society in which religious education was based on the relationship between master and disciple – as was that of the rabbinical schools – thus referring to a familiar reality. Disciples learned by diligently attending the master’s house, engaging in long talks and speculations on the Torah, and assimilating certain modes of interpreting the Law in which they were being instructed, eventually becoming a spiritual son. St. Paul himself would say he had been formed “at the feet of Gamaliel” (Acts 22: 3).

Starting with this concept, Our Lord established the line of discipleship in the New Testament from a new perspective. He makes it clear that effective learning cannot be seen as an emancipation of the one being instructed, nor does it signify an opportunity to learn the secrets of the art, as a sort of ladder which allows a person to supplant his teacher. With the advent of the Saviour, the true Master came to us; He who would shed the only Blood capable of redeeming the world. Before Him, all must mutely acknowledge their own littleness, to receive the measure of His spirit that is intended for them. Later, when employing the word in the condition of mere instruments, the disciples would offer the crystal-clear water of sound doctrine, gained from the direct contemplation of the Divine Master. This is how the greatest luminaries of the Church proceeded, who were, in turn, the most obedient followers of Jesus.

We are all sinners

41 “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? 42 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.”

These following verses deal with another aspect of blindness: the inability to see others as they really should be seen. The origin of this defect is pride, because he who is not humble enough to consider God as He is, will also not make a well-formed judgment of his neighbour in accord with divine criteria. The image of the beam and the splinter reflects the disparity usually existing between the dissatisfaction of the proud and the reality of the defects of their neighbour.

The conduct of those who have a precise idea of their faults and failings is very different. Since they do not hold themselves as the final purpose of everything they do, they are better able to understand the weaknesses of others and treat them kindly, as Dorotheus of Gaza observes: “Saints are not blind and they hate sin, but they do not hate those who commit it; they do not judge, but are compassionate. They counsel, comfort, and care for the sinner as for an ailing member, employing all possible means to save him.”8 The humble always ask God for forgiveness and know that if they are not judged with compassion, they will be lost. Therefore, in dealing with others, they put themselves in their place and apply the same kindness that they would wish to receive from God. As Peláez expresses it, “self-criticism puts us in the ideal light to see the extent of others’ defects. He who examines and criticizes himself learns to see with compassion.”9

Taking the beam out of our own eye means banishing a pharisaic mindset about ourselves and having our sights set on those who are our lights: Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin. This will enable us to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye, helping him to recognize his digression from our supreme models and, for love of Them, to desire his conversion. Any other method will be of no avail and will not yield fruit, as the following passage shows.

St. Augustine – St. Mary’s Church, Kitchener (Ontario)

III – Good and Bad Fruit Born in the Heart

43 “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit, nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For people do not pick figs from thornbushes, nor do they gather grapes from brambles.”

Our Lord uses the figure of the fruits growing from good and bad trees, composing a beautiful image to illustrate a principle that may seem obvious to us today. However, no one had ever been wise enough to formulate it before Him. In fact, only the One God, who tries hearts and minds (cf. Ps 7: 9), could have transmitted it. It demonstrates clearly that there is no difference between who we are and what we do. Later, Jesus would reproach the wickedness of the Pharisees toward His testimony: “If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father” (Jn 10: 37-38). What, for example, were the works of the Pharisees? An enforcement of the Law so harsh that it oppressed everyone with its rigour, and no one was able to fulfil it perfectly. What were the works of the Lord? A new doctrine confirmed by miracles, resurrections, and the casting out of demons. That is, their works revealed their true identity.

The absence of figs on thornbushes, or grapes on brambles shows that the fruit of a tree is definable as good or bad, for there could never be fruit that was poisonous while simultaneously serving as food. We can apply this truth to the intentions of the heart, because although they are impenetrable to others, they sooner or later express themselves through our actions. No one can pretend to be a virtuous person when he sins interiorly because he soon reveals his falsity. “Man acts according to what he is in reality; even if he tries to use artful simulation, his acts and his words are an exact reflection of what he is deep inside.”10 Therefore, we should never seek to reconcile good practices with reprehensible ones, trying to establish a bridge between God and the devil. Just as we do not eat thorns, we cannot assimilate bad doctrine, or allow a worldly spirit to enter our apostolic works, as some would wish. In this regard, St. Augustine teaches: “The doctrine of Christ, growing and developing, became mixed with good trees and with bad brambles. The good preach it as well as the bad. Observe where the fruit comes from, the origin of what nourishes you or troubles you. To the eye, they are tangled together, but the root distinguishes them.”11 This infallible criterion always indicates the truth because, as Dom Chautard concludes, God is compelled to “withdraw from the apostle who is inflated with his own importance, all His best gifts, and to reserve these for the branch that humbly recognizes that all its life-sap comes from the divine stock.”12

Grace, the treasure of the good

45 ”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.”

The image of a store signifies what man holds most dear: his life’s riches. Our Lord shows His preference for this symbolism in His preaching, using it on numerous occasions, such as when instructing on laying up treasures in Heaven (cf. Lk 12: 33) and seeking the hidden treasure in a field (cf. Mt 13: 44). He draws a connection between the Kingdom of Heaven and a precious pearl found by a merchant (cf. Mt 13: 45-46). He even compares the scribe to a father of a family who brings old and new things out of his treasure (cf. Mt 13: 52), and He invites the rich young man to give up everything for another treasure: a happy eternity (cf. Mk 10: 21). In this Sunday’s passage, He speaks of the store in the heart.

Throughout life, it is natural to have a liking for whatever seems most excellent and in line with our own personality, since it is a characteristic of human psychology to conserve whatever we identify with ourselves, and reject whatever is foreign to our inclinations. If this holds true in the natural plane, it is even more applicable to matters of the spiritual life. What is the heart’s store of someone who is good? It is eternal treasure, for if a drop of grace is worth more than all the natural good in the whole universe,13 whoever lives in the grace of God possesses immeasurable wealth. However, we will only have an authentic store of treasure if our heart is converted; therefore we must govern it and keep it from following paths opposed to grace. To do this, we must root out attachments and whims that separate us from God, especially sin. If in the past we established an alliance with any of these deviations, we must make amends, for only in this way will we be able to build a heavenly treasure.

However, just as it is desired that earthly riches grow in quantity, our eternal treasure needs to increase in quality through contemplation, perpetual praise, thanksgiving and worship of God. This will make it produce teachings that are useful to our neighbour, as are the words that flow from the fullness of a virtuous heart. Otherwise it will only produce fruits of egocentrism that are incapable of edifying.

The word is the mirror of the heart

The consideration of the word is, for us, a call to examine our conscience. What are our conversations about? To what do we incite others by what we say? What comes out of our mouths? By our speech, we will see who we are interiorly, and will have an idea of the tree from which these fruits come, as St. Basil cautions: “The quality of the words shows the heart from which they proceed, plainly manifesting the inclination of our thoughts.”14 In this Gospel, Our Lord tells us it is through the conversations we engage in every day that we will learn what kind of treasure is stored in our soul. St. John Chrysostom is also very clear when expounding this doctrine: “For it is of the most natural consequence that when wickedness is abounding within, it will be poured forth through the words of the lips. When you hear a man with evil speech, do not suppose him to have only so much wickedness as the words display, but conjecture the fountain to be much more abundant; for what becomes external is only the overflow of the heart. […] For the tongue, although often shameless, does not pour forth all its wickedness at once. The heart, however, unobserved by any human witness, has no fear to produce whatever evils it will; for of God it has little regard. Thus, while words may be examined and are proclaimed before all, the heart remains hidden in the shadows; wherefore the evils of the tongue are less frequent than those of the heart. But when the evil within becomes exceedingly great, then it furiously bursts forth with all that had been concealed.”15

Priestly ordination in the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, Caieiras, 24/4/2015

IV – Conclusion

The psalmist compares life to a mere breath and a passing shadow (cf. Ps 39: 5-6), of negligible duration. We are all heading towards the great day of reckoning, when Jesus will summon us to His presence and lead us to the dwellings of His Father’s house, if we are found worthy of reward. We already know, however, that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is granted to the good according to the fruits that they have yielded. These fruits will reveal the sincerity of our surrender to God. He has taken the initiative to love us by the free decision of His own will, drawing us out of the dust and bringing us to the highest supernatural peak, the life of grace. How have we shown our gratitude? This is the Sunday of the liturgy of generosity, of our response to God for all that He gives us.

Bearing in mind that these fruits also refer to the way we conduct our neighbour along the path of salvation, let us ask for the precious intercession of the Blessed Virgin, to obtain for us the grace of being transformed into disciples of gratitude for all that we have received from God. What is more, we ought to become children whose lives can be compared to the crystal face of a monstrance, an instrument that does not impede the faithful from contemplating the Eucharistic Jesus; rather, its excellence depends on its transparency.

Let us be authentic followers of Our Lord and devoted children of the Church who strive to spread throughout the world the light received from above. In this way we will bear every sort of good fruit, because “when men resolve to cooperate with the grace of God, the marvels of history are wrought.”16



1 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Lecture. São Paulo, 4 abr. 1972.
2 BARTOLOMÉ GONZÁLEZ, Francisco. Acercamiento a Jesús de Nazaret, vol II. Madrid: Paulinas, 1985, p.39.
3 TERTULLIAN. Apologeticum, XXXIX: ML 1, 471.
4 ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Summa Theologiæ, Suppl., q.36, a.1.
5 CHAUTARD, OCSO, Jean-Baptiste. The Soul of the Apostolate.Trappist, KY: Abbey of Gethsemani 1946, p.115-116.
7 MONLOUBOU, Louis. Leer y predicar el Evangelio. Santander: Sal Terræ, 1946, p.162.
8 DOROTHEUS OF GAZA, apud CANTALAMESSA, OFMCap, Raniero. Echad las redes. Reflexiones sobre los Evangelios. Ciclo C. Valencia: Edicep, 2003, p.214.
9 PELÁEZ, Jesús. La otra Lectura de los Evangelios, Ciclo C, vol. II. (Ed.2). Córdoba: El Almendro, 2000, p.104.
10 MONLOUBOU, op. cit., p.162.
11 ST. AUGUSTINE. Sermo CCCXL/A, n.10. In: Obras, vol. XXVI. Madrid: BAC, 1985, p.37.
12 CHAUTARD, op. cit., p.11.
13 Cf. ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, op. cit., I-II, q.113, a.9.
14 ST. BASIL apud ST. THOMAS AQUINAS. Catena Aurea. In Lucam, c.VI, v.43-45.
15 ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM. Homilia XLII, n.1, In: Obras, vol. I: Homilías sobre el Evangelio de San Mateo (1-45). (Ed.2). Madrid: BAC, 2007, p.809-810.
16 CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA, Plinio. Revolução e Contra-Revolução. (Ed.5). São Paulo: Retornarei, 2002, p.132.


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