Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Parables of Jesus: The Speck in Your Brother's Eye

Matthew 7:[3]-5:

And why seest thou the mote that is in thy brother' s eye; and seest not the beam that is in thy own eye? Or how sayest thou to thy brother: Let me cast the mote out of thy eye; and behold a beam is in thy own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam in thy own eye, and then shalt thou see to cast out the mote out of thy brother' s eye.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Do you remember Jesus' teaching that the eye is the lamp of the body? This continues in that vein, somewhat. In this case, we see motes and beams that are in the eye--which, if we continue in the same thought pattern, causes darkness within. What Jesus is alluding to here is sin.

We have a tendency, don't we? To see the sin in others, but not in ourselves? It's because observation of others is easier than observation of the self, because one is more passive, and the other more active. You have to actively examine yourself to see where your faults lie. You don't really have to do that with others. You just kind of notice it. It's there in your face, especially if it's a sin that you happen to take pride in avoiding, yourself.

But, Jesus isn't comparing apples to apples here. It's not like He's saying, don't clean the speck out of your brother's eye, when there's a speck in yours. Rather, it's more like apples to oranges. He's saying, don't try to clean the speck out of your brother's eye, when there is a beam in your own.

Not only are you a hypocrite for behaving this way, but you're also ineffective. How can the blind lead the blind? If you are in grave sin, how can you expect to help your brother with his venial sin? Look to yourself first. Find healing from the Lord for yourself first.

So, there's two things here. There's "seeing" the mote in your brother's eye--this pertains to a judgmental attitude, which is hypocritical when we have beams in our own eyes. There is also "saying," "let me cast out the mote" of my brother's eye--this pertains to ineffective help, but also has a certain quality of judgment to it. This becomes clearer when you examine the preceding verses.

Judge not, that you may not be judged, For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The "seeing" is the judgment your judge, and the "saying" is the measure you mete. For, do we not, in our effort to "correct" our brother, exact a certain amount of justice upon him?

Consider this: you are at Mass, and you notice a family coming into Mass late. How do you react internally, and how do you react externally? Internally, do you say to yourself, "come on people, don't you know it's a sin to come in to Mass late?" You have just "seen" the speck in your brother's eye. But you, holding this judgment in your heart, are guilty of not discerning the Body--the unity of the Christian family--because you now hold something against your brother that you have not settled with him before offering the sacrifice.

Now, what do you do externally? Do you approach the family after Mass and "correct" them for not coming to Mass on time? Now you are "saying" let me take out the mote, but meanwhile you are causing humiliation, and are guilty of harming their reputation.

With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Let us first recognize the beams in our own eyes, the great sins that we have to triumph over. And then, recognizing the magnitude of these sins, let us approach our neighbor with an attitude of offering them the benefit of the doubt; perhaps they do not know what they are doing is a sin. Be merciful, and you shall receive mercy. Be forgiving, and you shall be forgiven.

It's okay to help your brother, and to draw out the sin from his life. Just make sure not to become a hypocrite in the process.

God bless, and thank you for reading!

The Parables of Jesus: Serving God and Mammon

Matthew 6:[24]-34:

No man can serve two masters. For either he will hate the one, and love the other: or he will sustain the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say to you, be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than the meat: and the body more than the raiment?

Behold the birds of the air, for they neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns: and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you by taking thought, can add to his stature by one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they labour not, neither do they spin. But I say to you, that not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these. And if the grass of the field, which is today, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, God doth so clothe: how much more you, O ye of little faith?

Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Happy Palm Sunday! Are you excited to be entering Holy Week? I am! It's the most important time of the Liturgical year. All the graces the flow from the Sacraments through the rest of the year, draw from the Easter Triduum. That's why there's so much going on this coming week! So exciting!

Anyway, on to my post!

For me, this teaching has always been fairly straightforward. However, upon further reflection, there are certainly some things to note.

To begin, Jesus says you cannot serve two masters. Note, Jesus uses the word "master" here. Within the context of the day, a master was a slave-owner, or one who had working servants. I think that helps to clarify the comparison Jesus is making here. As a slave, or even as a servant, although to a lesser degree, you served only one master. You were not owned by two, and split your time between the two. And if you were and did, then it is as Jesus has said, you would either hate one and love the other (because the demands of one might be greater or less than the other, and the reward of one might be greater or less than the other), or you will sustain the one and despise the other (because you will tend, inevitably, to spend more time in service to one than the other).

Consider a more modern-day example. Have you ever worked a job wherein you had two managers, or your position was ambiguous, and two of the higher-ups had some claim to be your manager? I have. I work as a project accountant. Typically, that means you work on site, but your direct manager is in the head office. Well, in that scenario, there will be a non-accounting supervisor on site, who will demand time and work from you, and that will often clash with the work priorities that your manager in head office demands of you. It's very difficult to satisfy both demands, and you always end up having to choose between the two which to prioritize.

So who are you choosing between here? God and mammon. The word mammon, by the way, does not appear anywhere in the Old Testament, but only in the New, and is typically understood to mean money, wealth, riches, worldly interests, or "that which you put your trust in." So, does Jesus mean greed here? Is He talking about vice? Not specifically, I don't think. Look at what He follows this with.

"Be not solicitous for your life, what you shall eat, nor for your body, what you shall put on." If mammon is wealth, or worldly interests, Jesus is drawing our attention to that which our riches are directed--food and clothing. We pursue possessions in order to secure our basic necessities. At least as a minimum. We can, of course, go beyond this, as a matter of competition--to have the biggest car, the highest brand clothing, the biggest house, etc., are status symbols. But at this point we've moved into the realm of vices, but Jesus doesn't go that far, He's talking about the basic necessities--we should not even worry about those.

Then He makes a really stark point. Birds don't "protect" themselves against future hardships. They simply live, going about their lives without worrying about what they will eat. When they're hungry, they eat. A wheat doesn't worry about what it wears, yet wheat is clothed by the design of God. And birds live and die, and the wheat today grows, and tomorrow is burned in the fire--but we are of much more importance. We are made to live with God forever. Remember that. That's what God intends for you, that's why He created you in the first place. If He looks after these things that live and die and cease to exist, so fastidiously, then how much more will He look after us, who He has made to live with Him forever?

So what? Does that mean we don't think about tomorrow, at all? Do we not make plans, and work to store up food, and make money to feed and clothe ourselves? Yes, of course we do these things, especially if we have families to care for. The answer to this question which Jesus offers to us is this: "Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice." Seek first the kingdom of God. Make it your first priority. Do all these other things, but recognize that they are secondary to God. Seek God first.

Don't be surprised when you see wicked men with money beyond imagining--they have made it their master, and they serve it first before all else. We do not, but that's okay, because God takes care of us. Our wealth is the wealth of His love, the virtue of our lives, the peace which this brings to our souls, and the love of family and friends. They might have a lot of money, but they do not have these other things.

Finally, remember Jesus' last word on this: "Be not therefore solicitous for tomorrow; for the morrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof." Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. There is enough evil in each day that you must battle against in your service to God, your master. You shouldn't have time to worry about tomorrow. Focus on fighting against evil, focus on serving God, seeking His kingdom and justice, and don't worry about the rest, for "all these things shall be added unto you."

Thank you for reading, and God bless you!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Parables of Jesus: The Eye is the Lamp of the Body

Matthew 6:[22]-23:

The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be!

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Now and forever. Amen.

Jesus warns us about what we allow into ourselves through our eyes (and by extension, all of our senses). He uses the metaphor of light once again. When we look at the sun, a bright and healthy sun illuminates the earth, and life grows and thrives. However, if that light is blocked off, darkness covers the earth, cold sets in, and life withers and dies.

The word "single" in the quote above is variously translated as "healthy, clear, perfect, sound, good". So, if you were confused by that, this is what He means by it. If your eye is healthy, your body will be filled with light. That is, you can see, the world around you is clear, and you can navigate it without fear of harm.

If your eye is evil, that is, not well, then your body will be filled with darkness. You will be unable to see the world about you, you will walk in fear of harm, and be unable to navigate the world with certainty.

Jesus then says "if the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be." If you find is strange that Jesus calls "light" "darkness", well you're not alone. I found it odd as well. But there's a reason He does this. Consider Isaiah 5:[20]: Woe to you that call evil good, and good evil: that put darkness for light, and light for darkness: that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter. We can, ourselves, call the darkness light. We can exchange in our own hearts, the light for darkness.

There is a subtle truth that Jesus is alluding to here: there is light, or darkness, that emanates from within, and whatever we have within us, we pursue outside of ourselves, and then draw it back into us, either brightening the light that we already have, or darkening the darkness that is already within us. This is why He says "the darkness itself how great shall it be".

And we observe this don't we? The desires of our hearts, we chase. But if those desires are wicked, then what we allow into our bodies through our eyes (and senses) will also be wicked, and this darkens our hearts further. But if our desires are good, then what we allow in through the senses will also be good, and brighten our hearts all the more.

The warning, then, is this: protect that light, and only allow into your eyes that which is also light, and good, and wholesome, and holy. Otherwise, you way extinguish the light that is within you, and cause your heart to be darkened by evil.

Remember, this teaching is given to us in with the wider context of the treasure of our hearts. Go back to Matthew 6:[19]-21: Lay not up to yourselves treasures on earth: where the rust, and moth consume, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up to yourselves treasures in heaven: where neither the rust nor moth doth consume, and where thieves do not break through, nor steal. For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also.

For where thy treasure is, there is thy heart also. Let your treasure be God in heaven. And protect that treasure by protecting your heart, and only allowing into your heart that which is good and holy.

Protect your eyes from the glamour of worldly goods.

Thank you for reading, and God bless you!