September 9, 2016
Gospel Lk 6:39-42
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.”
Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
This is one of those gospels where you hear it as an adult, and you’re like, “Nah, that doesn’t apply to me, this is a little too extreme” but after a little reflection… the truth reveals itself, sinking deeper and deeper. In my experience, sins of omission are much harder to detect and confess than commission with regards to charity. The thing is, we may be used to, by the grace of God, being very amiable with a wide variety of people in public, but slacking off on maintaining charity with those closest to us (i.e. our spouses, roommates, good friends, family). Somehow, there’s this mental disengaging we do with those closest to us where we place them in another category: People I Don’t Have to Try That Hard For, or, People Who Will Always Be There Anyways. I think that’s why Jesus uses the example of brothers in this nearly comic parable; it’s very easy to think of siblings having this quarrel.
The thing is, the process of getting to know someone will help you see splinters and/or wooden beams in their eye. The closer you get, the more splinters you’ll see. And, when we see them, the initial impulse that usually follows is to point them out and try to address their problem ourselves. When I really think about it, the times when that impulse is the strongest is when I’m either subconsciously trying to numb my own perception of my own “wooden beams,” or when I want to rid them of the damage that their splinters and beams are causing me, more for my own sake and not theirs. I think the former may be at play in this parable, since there’s the obvious size difference between the wooden beam of the accuser and the splinter of the accused.
So, what does Jesus tell us to do? Remove the beam in our own eye. What does this mean? Be aware and try to amend the sin you struggle with the most, the darkness that is giving you the biggest spiritual blindspot. I am sure that when we shift gears from focusing on others’ shortcomings to our own, and especially in light of the perfection Jesus calls us all towards, we will approach our fellow pilgrims with more charity.
What happens when we never check out the splinters or beams in our own eye? The blind lead the blind and fall into a pit. Hopefully you have not experienced something that dire, but I’m sure it won’t take long to figure out a time when you and a close friend or significant other have experienced something like a blind stand-off: refusing to cease pointing out what’s in their eye while also refusing to check out what’s in your own eye.
Needless to say, vocation is a place where God seeks to both amplify your awareness of your own splinters and beams at the same time as you are becoming aware of ONE other person’s splinters and beams. And, the most beautiful and excruciating fact about this arrangement is that it’s the same person who is behind both processes. Humility is key. Humility and flexibility to be corrected without an impulsive counter-correction, as well as correct without feeling too correct and overly enlightened yourself.
I’ll end with a prayer:
Lord Jesus, You who see all things perfectly,
help us see those closest to us in Your light.
Please give us a deeper knowledge of our own sins,
and a more fervent attitude of charity towards others
in the spirit of thirsting after your love.
Please give us leaders who can see Your light
and leaders who can correct in Your light.
Please give us the humility to confess and amend our sinful ways,
always keeping in mind that you experienced their full horror
because we simply could not, and You simply loved us.