Sundays Best - A Pick of the Readings
First Reading: Ecclesiasticus 27:4-7
A reading from the book of Ecclesiasticus.
In a shaken sieve the rubbish is left behind, so too the defects of a man appear in his talk. The kiln tests the work of the potter, the test of a man is in his conversation. The orchard where the tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit, similarly a man’s words betray what he feels. Do not praise a man before he has spoken, since this is the test of men.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
From 10.00am every Tuesday throughout March
Wed 6th Mar 9.30am Imposition of Ashes (Ash Wednesday)
Thur 7th Mar 9.30am Said Mass. (preceded by Stations of the the Cross at 9.15am)
Sun 10th Mar 9.30am Parish Mass. (1st Sunday in Lent)
Parochial Church Council Monday 11th March
Wednesday 27th March Bishop Pete is visiting the Deanery between 10.30am & 2.30pm. The event will be hosted by Penistone St Johns but there will be an opportunity for all Parishes to make presentation of their work.
WW2 Brass: Thur 5th September. Themed Concert to coincide with the start of the Second World War. Will also include a pictorial presentation. More details to follow.
Xmas Brass: Thur 12th December. Usual mix of seasonal and contemporary music.
Both concerts will feature Worsbrough Brass.
“O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us.”
(Robert Burns: “To a Louse on Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet in Church”).
Burns recognised that if we could see ourselves through the eyes of others, then we should be relieved of many a conceit. It would be far less likely that we would be inclined to judge other people or to have an overblown idea of ourselves. But what a painful thing it is to see ourselves not as we would wish to imagine ourselves but through the reality that other people encounter in us!
As a seminarian at theological college in Mirfield, one of the most excruciating things we had to do was to preach to our fellow students and then be given feedback by them. A humbling experience indeed! You would know how to get your own back though. At least we didn’t have to be recorded and then watch the playback, as some unfortunate souls had to do. You would be faced with all your mannerisms in glorious technicolour and there would be no point in denying any of it. Even so, if we can bear the pain, a bit more self- knowledge can never be a bad thing.
None of us likes criticism which is why Jesus’s comments about splinters and planks resonate so clearly with us. Who hasn’t been lectured by someone who thinks they know better? And who hasn’t been hurt by hypocritical speech and behaviour?
Although Jesus’s words remind us of the danger of hypocrisy and of being harshly critical of others, they are actually more about self-criticism. If we look at today’s passage as a whole, then we can see that Jesus is grouping together several different images that say more or less the same kind of thing. As well as warning us of the plank in our own eye, Jesus tells us of the danger of leading other people if we are not properly equipped. He reminds us also that a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
All of these sayings point us to the theme of self-awareness. We need time effort to get to know ourselves properly – our thoughts, our motives, our intentions; our gifts and our failings; our actual knowledge as opposed to our imagined expertise. Only when we have self-awareness can we offer advice and lead other people. Otherwise it is like the image Jesus provides us with: the blind leading the blind and falling into a pit.
All this seems very obvious when we think about it, but there is not always much evidence of self-awareness in public life. This seems especially true at the moment. Those in public life rarely apologise for the ways in which their conceit leads to poor decisions and a trail of damage. We can see examples of it also in the life of the Church. Admitting that we have got things wrong implies vulnerability and the need of other people. We are not always the experts we might imagine ourselves to be. True wisdom in fact makes us aware of the limits of our knowledge and expertise.
Jesus calls us to a place of self-reflection. After all, he himself went through that process as we are reminded at the beginning of Lent. In order to lead other people, Jesus had to know himself first. He had to see himself as he really was in relation to his heavenly Father. His ministry was not a time of seeking admiration from others, but it was a journey to the Cross; a journey of humility and the pouring out of his own self.
This is a way that seems at odds with present-day culture. Everything today shouts at us to turn up the volume on our own personalities; to lay claim to knowledge we don’t really have; to boast of our achievements. The journey to the Cross demands the opposite: as it has been said, in the Christianity, the “I” is crossed out. It is important that we know not only our strengths but also our weaknesses. In the monastic movement the three pillars are: poverty, chastity and obedience. It might seem that the last one would be the easiest, but in fact obedience means being attentive not only to other people but also to our true selves. We might not have taken such vows, but in some ways these are part of an authentic Christian life.
We all have motivations in our hearts that can produce bad fruit if they are not recognised and brought out into the light. God’s love can transform all these things so that instead of doing harm through our words and attitudes we can become a source of life for other people. When this happens, then in the spirit of those words of St Paul in the first letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 15, we find that: “our perishable nature has put on imperishability.”