September 9, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, priest

Today's Readings

For every person you know, if you know them very well at all, then you know some fault they have which is always getting in their way. You know that if they would just change this aspect of their personality, if they would stop complaining, or stop gossiping, or stop arguing needlessly, they would go further in life. If you could only get them to realize how they sabotage themself and annoy everyone around them, their life would be easier, and your life would be easier; the world would be a better place!

But of course telling them is useless. They will be shocked, as if they are oblivious to what is obvious, or they will acknowledge the problem but in a way that shows that they do not really understand how serious the problem is. It does not matter. They will continue doing whatever it is they do. Even if they apologize and promise to do better, it is unlikely that they will actually make deep and lasting change.

It can be so frustrating, and the worst part is that if every person has some fault of this kind then that includes you and I. We too are fatally flawed. To be clear, I am not referring to what we would write down if listing our flaws. Even if we know our basic flaw, we do not realize how serious it is. Jesus described it so perfectly by calling it a splinter in the eye. We are oblivious to the splinter in our eye because we cannot see it because there is a splinter in our eye.

Jesus is not telling us that we should not correct each other and try to help each other become better people, but that we must do this with great humility, realizing that we too have a splinter in our eye. Not just, “yeah, yeah I’ve got my faults too but….” No, this is why he calls it a “wooden beam”, not because it is a bigger fault than anyone else but because we have a tendency to minimize it.

What can we do about this splinter in our eye that we cannot see? We have to find other people who we trust, who can tell us where the splinter is exactly and what it is made out of. They cannot pull it out themselves, but if we submit humbly to their help, God will remove it if we let him.