There is a lot going on in the Gospel today. It may seem like a shotgun effect of various platitudes, but Jesus is targeting our hearts and souls to look deep within ourselves, to focus in on our personal honesty.
There is a lot of deception in our world today. What some people say and what they do are not necessarily the same. For some, the ends justifies the means. There are those that will say and do whatever they feel necessary to obtain a certain outcome.
The biggest news this week is the war in Ukraine. Our hearts and prayers reach out to them for God’s loving mercy and peace to rest upon them. Many ask why there are those that are not satisfied with what they have, why they must take what is not theirs. I am not going to get into a political debate about the war, but unfortunately war is experienced throughout human history. The restless soul is searching for our Lord and we as human beings are trying to fill this yearning with material things or power over others.
It’s amazing how we as human beings can come up with reasons to justify our actions even if those actions are hurtful to others in pursuit of our personal goals. In many cases the actions taken contradict previously expressed points of view. We first say what we believe others want to hear, we then do what we want to do, and then find a way to justify our actions. A key point to take from the scriptures today is discovering what truths lie in our hearts. Luke 12:2 states: “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.”
We hear often in the news these days about the hypocrisy surrounding our politicians. We hear the Democrats calling the Republicans hypocritical as well as the Republicans calling the Democrats hypocritical. But it was no different in Jesus’ time. Jesus often points out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He is referring to their failure to follow the moral rules and principles that they preach. In Matthew 23:3 Jesus said regarding the Pharisees: “…Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice.” This is a warning to all of us.
Jesus is challenging us in the Gospel today to take a close look at ourselves. Are we unknowingly living hypocritically? Do we practice what we profess to be, Christians, followers of the teachings of Christ? Of course even with being the best followers of Christ we will stumble and sin. That doesn’t mean we are hypocrites, it just means we are human. The real question comes into focus when we ask ourselves if we are “acting” in our best behavior or are we living authentically.
How many of us can relate to best behavior vs authenticity? Best behavior is complying with expectations. I am sure you remember growing up and your parents saying to you at some point, “be on your best behavior” while you are visiting some place, person or event.
As an adult we often put that same hat on again when we start dating someone. We act in a way we think that person would expect in order to make a good first impression. We often say it is wise to take time to truly get to know someone because over time we cannot keep up that facade and will at some point show our true colors.
We know that we must be our authentic selves in order for any relationship to last. But the question that comes into play is, “do we like what we see when we look at ourselves”. This refers back to the passage about recognizing the beam in our own eye.
As we enter Lent this week which starts on Wednesday, let’s take a long truthful look at ourselves to search for the beam in our own eye. If we want to be a good example of Christian living to our children and all those around us then we must preach it through our actions, not just words. We must first examine ourselves and possibly make changes that will lead us to living authentically in Christ.
We attribute the following saying to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times; use words when necessary.” This is what is meant by living authentically in Christ. This should be our goal of our spiritual journey. We can start with being on our best behavior based not on societal expectations, but Christ’s. If the intent is to change, even if it starts out as best behavior and not authentic, in time it will change, it will become authentic. There is a saying that goes: “If you follow your head, your heart will follow.”
The journey starts with recognizing the truth about ourselves, wanting to make a change and taking that first step in that direction. There is no time like the present. With Lent starting this week, we are challenged to take that first step. If you feel that in some ways you are not living up to the teachings of Christ, pick one thing to work on. Try to get rid of that beam in your eye. No one said that it would be easy, but it will be worth it.
You may at first feel hypocritical because your heart and mind are not in sync. It will take time but they will come in line. What is unfamiliar to us becomes familiar as we continue to practice what we preach.
When your heart and your mind come together, when they both are in sync with the teachings of Christ, when what you preach and how you live your life are in lockstep, your best behavior and authentic self will be one in the same. We then will see clearly to remove the beam in our own eye.
Then with clear vision we can be an authentic example of Christ’s light in the world.