Ordinary 8th Sunday – POWER OF THE SUBTLE

Ordinary 8th Sunday

Sir. 27: 4-7                               1Cor. 15: 54-58                        Lk. 6: 39-45



By working on our inner self, we can be persons of higher awareness, of better words and enjoy immortality.


There was an ashram with a guru and many disciples. The guru was a deeply humble and unassuming man. Among the disciples, there was one who thought that he was more knowledgeable and intelligent than the guru. He bragged to other disciples that the guru was not as intelligent as he. This went to the ears of the guru, but he did not mind it. When the bragging went beyond a limit, the guru thought that it was high time to deal with it.

Once while addressing the disciples, he asked the particular proud disciple to bring a pot full of water. He brought it. The guru asked him, “What is in the pot?” He answered, “Water.” The guru, after telling the disciple to throw the water out, guru asked him, “What is in the pot now?” The disciple answered, “Nothing.” The guru responded, “Are you sure that there is nothing? Don’t you think that there is air inside?” The disciple thought for a moment and said, “Yes. I was not aware of it.” The guru pursued, “Suppose, I suck away all the air in the pot. Now what will there be?” The disciple emphatically answered, “Now certainly there will not be anything at all.” The guru with a smile told him, “Don’t you think that there is space in it?” The humbled disciple could not open his mouth. It was at this moment that the disciple understood that the guru was not as stupid as he thought, nor was he as intelligent as he thought.

This instructive story is indeed an apt one to understand some of the important lessons, the readings of today teach us.

Lesson 1:

Jesus says, “A disciple is not above the teacher” It does not necessarily mean that the guru (teacher) always knows intellectually more than the disciples. It simply means that a teacher, because his experience and expertise, has got his own depth while the person under learning has got his own limitations. It is the unawareness of his limitations that makes a disciple brag about oneself as it is clear in the story.

Unawareness of one’s limitations also leads one to present others in poor light. The disciple, while bragging about himself, also tried to show the guru in poor light. The Pharisees exactly did the same. First of all they were unaware of their limitations; they were unaware of their ritualistic approach towards Torah and their tradition; they were unaware that they were misleading simple people; they were unaware that they, in the name of serving God, only served their selfish motives. They had just turned a blind eye towards their limitations. Jesus’ words ‘not seeing the log of wood in one’s own eye’ exactly points to it. The unawareness of their limitations led the Pharisees to depict Jesus in poor light. This is clear in their attempt to find fault with Jesus all the time.

Lesson. 2:

The first reading tells us that the words we speak reveal what we are “The kiln tests the potter’s vessels; so the test of a person is in his conversation. Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree; so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind”. Jesus, after giving the same metaphor of tree, concludes, “it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”  The bragging of the disciple betrayed his ignorance, while the words of the guru manifested his wisdom. Even though the disciple was talking ill of the guru, indeed what he manifested was his own inner bankruptcy.

Once someone asked Bharathi, a famous poet in Tamilnadu, who lived in the last century, “People are very much attracted towards your poems. What is the secret of it?” He answered, “There is no secret in it. All that I know is if there is truth in heart, then words begin to be luminous and attractive.”

Lesson. 3:

‘The subtle is more powerful than the gross” is the final lesson. Air is more pervading that water. That is why when water is emptied of a pot, air fills the place. Next, even this air can be evacuated and emptied and there remains space, which can neither be emptied nor removed. Normally the five elements (Pancha bhoothas) are arranged in this sequence: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and Space. This sequence is based on their very nature. The order is from the grossest to the subtlest. Earth is the grossest and space is the subtlest. Space has no trace of grossness, is full of subtlety, and in it all the other elements exist. It tells us that the subtle is more powerful than the gross. The gross is perishable and mortal, while the subtle is imperishable and immortal.

St. Paul speaks of the perishable and the imperishable, the mortal and the immortal in the second reading. Then he continues to say that when the perishable puts on the imperishable, even death can be overcome. In our own self, we have got both the perishable and the imperishable, the gross and the subtle. Body is the perishable, mortal and gross dimension, while the Spirit is the imperishable, immortal and subtle dimension. There are plenty of people who, all through their lives, give importance to the perishable body, which consequently leads to a type of happiness that is gross and perishable. By saying ‘when the perishable puts on the imperishable, even death can be overcome,’ St. Paul informs us that if we allow the Spirit, the imperishable dimension of us, to rule over us, then nothing, including death, can stop us.

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