Sunday, June 22, 2014

See Clearly

“You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:5

Day by day
Day by day
Oh, Dear Lord
Three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day.

Congruence is making sure what we say reflects what we do…and what we do reflects what we say.  The first reading from the Hebrew Bible warns us of what happened to the children of Israel when their actions did not follow the commandments and statues prescribed by the Lord.  War came and they were taken hostage because they did not give up their “evil ways.”  The implication is that had the people been more obedient, then the war may not have occurred. Maybe. 

Many of the places mentioned in the first reading are remote – today they have other names.  However, the battle in today’s scripture reading takes place in the same area which is the present day Syria and Iraq – the source of an on-going current battle with religious and political overtones.  From 500 years before Christ to 2,000 years after, that area of the world has been in a state of almost constant geo-religious-political conflict.  The theory that their behavior might have brought about the war is hard to prove or disprove.  Had they changed, then war may have happened for another reason.

The deeper meaning here, though, as Matthew’s account of Christ’s sermon makes clear, hypocrisy is not reserved solely for the others.  It takes action by two parties to resolve conflicts and to get along.  While many times, the biblical moniker “hypocrite” had been reserved for the scribes and the Pharisees, the notes to the New American Bible explain that it also applies to the Christian disciple who is concerned with the faults of another and ignores his own more serious offenses.

We need a set of practices which puts us in a proper relationship with God and with our neighbors.  Our conduct toward others may very well correspond to God’s conduct toward us.  Thus, we have to guard against passing judgment in a spirit of arrogance that ignores awareness of our own foibles.  If not, that may just be how the Lord judges us if God were not perfectly merciful.

We cannot just make a point to be politically expedient.  The judgment we make must be consistent with getting the relationships right.  Take Pope Francis.  Last week, he ventured into parts of Italy controlled by the mafia and said that, because of their actions, they have excommunicated themselves from the church.  

Although organized criminals may be an extreme example, what behavior of ours may be expedient but incongruous?  How can we harmonize what we belief with what we do?  

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