2nd March Ash Wednesday Mass at 9.30am.
3rd March N.B. No service.
4th March World Day of Prayer at the Salvation Army Church at Hoyland Common.
6th March Sunday Mass 9.30am
13th March A joint benefice mass at St Peters 10.00am followed by a Lights for Christ meeting until around 12.30pm.
17th March to 7th April - Lent course.
Every Tuesday from 10.m - all are welcome.
Sermon from the Eight Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we get older our eyesight tends not to be as good as it used to be, as I have discovered for myself. Even so, having a plank in your eye seems about as serious an impediment to sight as you could imagine, even if it is one that can be remedied. Perhaps it is not surprising that Jesus uses imagery here that could relate to his previous walk of life as a carpenter. Splinters might have been an occupational hazard, although it is to be hoped that contact between splinters and eyes would have been avoided. As for the plank, this would doubtless have been used for effect as a comical image that makes a point. If it were possible to have a plank in your eye it would be impossible to see anything at all, not even the plank itself.
This imagery was mainly aimed at the Pharisees, whose own spiritual blindness could lead others into the same ditch as they were inclined to end up in themselves. Jesus tells his listeners that a disciple is not superior to his teacher. In other words, if people look to the spiritually blind for guidance, then they would go wrong in much the same way. Pharisees would only produce more Pharisees. Clear vision is one of the qualities needed for those who are to be able to lead others. The disciples of Jesus were drawn to him because he could clearly see the way ahead. He himself is the Light of the World and by his light people no longer needed to walk in the darkness of ignorance, pride and sinfulness. They too would see salvation.
We seem to be going through a time when there is so much darkness in the world. We don’t have to look hard for examples of leaders whose own inner darkness is projected into the world around them. We know them by their fruits, to take the image that Jesus uses towards the end of this gospel passage. Those who nurse grudges, bitterness and envy in their hearts will betray this in their speech and in the end, also in their actions.
Jesus also points to those who believe so strongly in their own innate wisdom and goodness that they feel able to judge others. Again he uses the word “hypocrite” when speaking of the Pharisees. In the Greek-speaking world, “hypocrite” was used to refer to actors who would cultivate a stage persona quite different from their own character. Actors of course pretend to be someone different from themselves. This is fine on a stage, but not so good for religious teachers or political leaders. That lack of authenticity and integrity might fool people for a time, but sooner or later those people are found out. We have seen the damage that has been done by leaders in the secular world and sadly, in the church too, who have not lived up to their own teaching.
For that matter, it is a trap that many of us can fall into when we notice the speck in someone else’s eye but fail to see the plank in our own. Other people’s failings can seem so much bigger than our own, at least until we are able to see ourselves from their perspective. Everyone has their particular faults and when we recognise this it keeps us humble and reminds us for our need for God. It also reminds us to be kind to others, to be patient and ready to forgive. After all, is this not how we would wish other people to deal with us? Those who refuse to see their own failings and who constantly judge others are unwittingly inviting other people to judge them in turn.
In a world darkened by violence – especially at this time in Ukraine – we need more than ever to see by the light that Jesus brings into our world. If our vision is clouded by a false image of ourselves then we cannot see clearly, let alone show others the way. /if we want our lives to produce something wholesome that will bring goodness into the world around us, then like a healthy tree, we need to nourish ourselves with something good and wholesome. The teachings of Jesus are the best place to start, as we learn from him and build ourselves up in prayer and in the sacramental life of the Church.
Next week we enter into Lent, a time when we are reminded of how Jesus looked into his own heart and stood in obedience before the Father of us all. Only when we look into our hearts, when we listen to God, when we cease to lecture other people – only then can we see clearly and find that the Holy Spirit purifies us from within. In this way the intentions of our hearts are made clean and in the words of St Paul, our mortal nature puts on immortality.
Let us pray:
Lord, you teach us to look into our hearts and to see our need for your transforming grace. Let us never allow pride to blind us to our true nature. Enable us to see our need for you and to follow humbly in your footsteps.
I am a rather old Saint.