2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18
The Gospel According to Matthew 7:1-15
My mother and dad were good to me growing up. Father's day reminded me of that. To look back and see exactly what it was like growing up. They were always there for me and gave me gifts other kids did not even have. Most of my friends didn't have a car. I had several that I was allowed to choose from to use. I often took that for granted. There was this one time that my mother asked me to take the garbage to the dump. This was before curb side pickup for the whole county. Back then they used to have a dumpster down by the bridge that crosses the lake. I was so angry! I wanted to do something else and she dared to ask me to do something before I went off to do my thing. I stormed out, threw all the trash into the car they gave me, and sped all the way to the dumpster. When there I threw the trash as hard as I could reveling in the sound of crunching glass, broken bags, and cracking debris. Then I went to the hatch of the Bronco and slammed it as hard as I could. I had all the windows up. I learned a very valuable lesson about air pressure in a closed environment. The rear window shattered out in an explosion covering me with glass.
How could I explain this to my parents? I had destroyed the gift they had given me all because I was angry at being asked to do a small favor on my way to do something else. The first reading from the Second Book of Kings reminds me of that. God has given Israel everything. He has saved them from slavery, delivered them to the promised land, sent messenger after messenger to tell them of His great love and mercy. In return they continue to ignore his promise. The Israelites at the time expressed it as God having "put them out of his sight." We understand that more today as God was offering them an Amazing Grace and they were too stubborn to accept it. My parents did not turn their back on me when I slammed the car trunk, they were rather offering me the use of the car and all that came with it, with a small request of just taking out the trash. God never forgets us, He never stops offering forgiveness... but sometimes in our anger, in our frustration we refuse to take it. We refuse to be faithful to the relationship and that grace is lost.. just like the glass of a window shattered in the antics of a frustrated teen.
Society reels from the impact of not receiving that grace. We see it today in the actions of our government, youth, friends and families. What was once considered taboo and personal is now lauded in the streets. Religion is mocked and relegated to something you just do behind closed doors. The things that were once considered perversions are now considered sacred and relegated to untouchable and one is labelled a bigot if they speak out against it. Just like the Israelites they turn their back on the one true God and serve instead the God's of the enemy, the ones who encourage sexual impurities, incestual worship, and even child sacrifice. The Psalm for today speaks of that reeling, that sense of lost. That moment when we realize we are no longer being sheltered by God's grace and not because of His actions. He is always faithful, but we, we often break the Covenant.
You have rocked the country and split it open;
repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.
You have made your people feel hardships;
you have given us stupefying wine.
Doesn't that say it all? The thing about the Psalms is they often express that deep sense of loss, that deep regret of not having God on our side.. that longing in our hearts for a restoration of that relationship that makes us whole and complete. Even those Psalms though always end with a declaration of hope, a trust and faith that if we return to the covenants, if we but plead with God with a contrite heart, then He will always be there to return to us. Hope.
Christ is that fulfillment of hope. Even when all others are turning their back on Him, even when the northern tribes rejected His grace to the point that their enemies over threw them, God was there for Judah. The remnant need not fear the enemy. Christ is there for us always, but He requires something from us. Relationship. Faithfulness. Covenant fidelity. He reminds us that first and foremost we are to be looking inward. To examine our own steps to see if there are any 'specks' or splinters in our own eyes. That means looking to see if we are right with God. Are we in a proper relationship? Or are we pushing God away and rejecting that grace? Many of us are choosing to ignore the splinters. Some small vice or some small addiction that we can't control.. and we excuse it. "I'm not that bad." "It's only this, at least it's not that." "I can't help it, but God loves me." He does indeed, but He challenges you to be better. To be the person He created you to be. That means being faithful to His commands, following the rules He established, in the way and through the authority He decreed.
That doesn't mean we never judge. Too many quote the Gospel without the full message. It means that we judge as God judges. God is righteous and we deserve punishment. He is also merciful and took the punishment Himself. That's how we judge, with righteousness (truth) and with mercy (love.) We cannot express a God who is only one or the other. If God is only the righteous judge, then only the perfect will ever enter Heaven.. and how many of us are that? If God is only merciful then the Gospel becomes pointless, everyone is going to Heaven so why bother evangelizing at all? Rather we must judge with both, but only after looking inward and getting rid of even the smallest of splinters.
The thing about a splinter is that it festers. It irritates and either you remove it? Or it becomes more serious. Infection can set in, gangrene, a lost toe or finger, a limb? Where do we draw the line? We don't allow it to grow.. we remove it as fast as possible. That for us spiritually means frequent reception of the Sacraments, even the most under used and often despised Sacrament of Reconciliation. That Sacrament is a beautiful encounter with Christ Himself in which He offers to restore you to the right relationship with the Father, that we may be one as They are one. Not only does He remove the splinter of sin by forgiving all sin, but through the penance offered He encourages us to safeguard from getting another in it's place. We have to grow though! We have to go forth and try, not just give up and say "That's who I am." Because it's not. It's an action you've done, and it's less than you are capable of.
To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone. - Pope Francis
Then we are challenged to go into the world and share that mercy with others. Not to overlook their sins, but to help them find peace, joy, and a Sacramental life of their own. To help them encounter Christ first through you, then through the Church. In Cursillo we call that "be a friend, make a friend, and bring that friend to Christ." Don't try to take the log out of their eye while you're still not letting God's grace flow into your life. Form a relationship with them, see Christ in them, love them. Once a relationship is formed and they see you trying, they see you going to Confession and Mass.. then you can invite them to know Christ. Then, Christ, the man with no splinters or specks in His eye, can help to remove the log that stands between a right relationship with Him. Are you ready to do that? Are you making frequent reception of the Sacraments a priority? Not something to fit into your schedule but something your schedule fits around? Are you making Christ, the remover of all splinters and logs, the focus of your day? Are we ready to stop trying to break the glass of the other even further and instead bring them to the One who can restore them to wholeness?
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."