Are we in the Church like those fellows in Jesus’ parable today: the blind leading the blind? Are we in the Church simply hoodwinking ourselves? Are we, as some would say, a collection of poor individuals so insecure that we cling on to the merest hope of something beyond this world? Our detractors say that we are deceiving ourselves.
But we do not hold onto belief in God as if we were clinging to the wreckage of a sinking ship. We have, most of us, come to faith through deep inner conviction. It started off, in many cases, in our childhood and grew in us through our adolescence and adulthood.
Our faith is in Jesus Christ. It is an adult faith. It is a demanding faith. It brings us many struggles and conflicts of conscience. But it has borne fruit in our lives, and this is undoubtedly good fruit. Because of our faith we know that we are now much better people than we would ever have been without it. This is not hypocrisy; it is a simple fact.
Our lives have a long way to go yet, and our faith is continually tested and very frequently our words and actions let us down severely. However, we are still disciples realising that we have a lot to learn and we know that this will always be the case. But in the words of Paul in the second reading today, ‘we keep working at the Lord’s work; knowing that, in the Lord, we can never labour in vain.’
In today’s Gospel there are three distinct elements to Christ’s teaching. The first is the one we have just looked at about the blind leading the blind. Then comes the teaching about removing the splinter from your own eye and then follows the teaching about the sound tree producing good fruit. The Evangelist Luke has brought these three fragments of Christ’s teaching together because they are interrelated and because one seems to naturally follow the other.
The fragment about the splinter is particularly salutary. We are all too well aware of just how easy it is for us to see the faults of others while remaining blind to our own inadequacies. Our eyes look outwards from our bodies and we see very clearly what is all around us. In particular we see the mistakes other people make and we are easily alert to their hypocrisies and inadequacies.
It is not so easy to look inwards at ourselves. We are so immersed in our own lives that we find it difficult to observe our own deceptions and human faults. We fail to notice that we fall well short of the standards we expect from others. The way to overcome this problem is to cultivate the interior life. By the words ‘interior life’ we mean in particular our own spiritual awareness. By spending more time reflecting on God and on our relationship with him we become more and more aware of our personal inadequacies.
We acquire a deeper sensitivity to what it is we are actually doing. We become more conscious of our own actions and on the effects they have on others. The more spiritually sensitive we become the more we realise the impact of our actions on God and on the people around us.
Running alongside this growing awareness comes the realisation of how to lead our lives in a better way. We gradually come to an understanding not just of what our faults are but how to rectify them. We find ourselves in what we could call an interior first-aid station. The first-aider always has first to see what the problem is and only then can they do what is needed to allow healing to take place. The same goes for us. We have to come to an accurate awareness of our failings before we can begin to rectify them.
We develop this interior life by spending more time in prayer. But not just prayer, because in order to go deep into our interior selves we need to spend time in meditation. I’m not talking here about some kind of trance like state that comes from reciting mantras or other such things. I’m simply talking about spending time alone with God.
Some people find meditation very difficult, they find it hard to be alone without anything to do. They are not comfortable in their own company. It has been well said that if you cannot spend periods of time with yourself then how can it be reasonable to expect other people to spend time with you?
What I am talking about is adding a bit of time to your normal daily prayers. Say your prayers as you would normally and then simply add to them ten minutes of silence. During this time do or say nothing, allow yourself to become still, being aware only of the God who surrounds you. During this time simply open yourself to his love and allow yourself to bathe in it.
Spending moments such as these in meditation on a fairly regular basis over a long period of time will allow you to develop a deeper interior life. You will become, not perfect, but certainly more understanding of the effects your actions have on others. You will discover that you find yourself concentrating more on removing the splinters from your own eye rather that pointing out the splinters in everyone else’s.
Our aim in life ought to be to become like that sound tree we heard of in today’s Gospel which produces good fruit. We want to live our lives as true Apostles of Jesus Christ. We want to be ministers of his Word in the world. We want to serve the Lord in the best way we can.
In order to do these things we need to look into our own lives, to see our own faults and aim to overcome them. We do not want to become plaster cast saints. No, we want to become robust human beings, but ones who serve the Lord with all our hearts and who make a real contribution to the world.
Father Alex McAllister SDS
Parish Priest of
St Thomas à Becket