Reading I: Sirach 27:4-7
Reading II: 1 Corinthians15:54-58
Gospel: Luke 6: 39-45
There is no lack of moral issues that call for action by people of good will. Among these are racism, poverty, immigration, the environment, the sanctity of life, sexual abuse, human trafficking, the hunger and homelessness—to name just a few. When we start thinking about moral issues of such significance, we can soon become overwhelmed. What can we do to bring about real change? Society’s problems are too many and too complex.
Today Jesus raises a moral issue that every person can deal with effectively because we are in control of our attitudes and actions regarding other individuals. Jesus calls us to be less judgmental and more understanding regarding the moral failings of others. “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?” (Luke 6:41).
St. Francis embraced the truth of Christ’s words. In the Rule of his Order, he advised his brothers: “. . . be careful not to become angry and upset over someone’s sin, for anger . . . impedes love.” Too often, people romanticize St. Francis but he was a realist. He knew that his brothers and he himself would sin for as the Apostle wrote: “. . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). St. Francis did not want his brothers to condemn anyone for their sin but to call them to repentance so that they could become the persons God created them to be. The keys to achieving this are not judgment, anger or condemnation, but understanding, compassion, and love. Pope Francis’ experience as a priest, Jesuit superior, and bishop taught him this. He expressed the fruit of that experience in his oft-quoted characterization of the Church as a “field hospital that cares for the wounded.”
Another person who had an intuitive grasp of Christ’s words regarding judging others was Dave Garroway, the founding host and anchor of the Today show. He usually concluded each day’s program with the words “Be kind to one another.” We ought never be indifferent to sin as if it does not matter what people say and do to each other. Of course, it matters. But we need to find a way to lead each other to repentance. That will not happen if we are judgmental, impatient, or angry because of another’s sin. Simply put, today’s gospel reading calls to be kind to each other–to support each other as we all struggle with our selfishness and sin.
There are many important moral issues that call for a thoughtful, creative, and generous response from us. This can be overwhelming because many require systemic change that appears to be beyond our ability to effect. Today’s gospel lesson speaks to us of one aspect of our moral life that is under our control. We have a choice between being judgmental or understanding as we deal with each other. We all are sinners in need of understanding and forgiveness. We have no right to call attention to the speck in another’s eye, when there is a beam in our own. Because of God’s grace at work in us, we can be confident that our efforts to become more understanding will bear fruit and so we join Paul in offering “thanks to God who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:57).
Professor Emeritus of Old Testament Studies