Following is the meditation of the Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, for the 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, March 3, 2019:
Today’s Gospel passage (Lk 6:39-45) begins with a pressing series of questions: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?” (Lk 6:39,41-42).
To understand what Jesus means, we must remember the context: we are in Luke 6, a chapter that begins with the Beatitudes and continues with the passage heard last Sunday, in which Jesus reveals the measure of love that is called for in one who sets out to follow Him. A paradoxical measure, a measure without measure (Lk 6:27-38).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus cautions, so that it won’t not happen that someone, overcome by an excess of zeal, deceives himself by thinking of loving and doing good, and instead finds himself doing damage.
To love, Jesus says, good will is not enough, but one must be “well prepared” (Lk 6:40). But what does “well prepared” mean? It can be an expression that sounds strange to us, that reminds us of the preparation we do in a school, as if to love we must prepare ourselves, attend a course, as though it were something for the few.
It’s not so.
Before anything else, Jesus says that “anyone” (Lk 6:40) can be well prepared: it is not reserved for someone, as though others were excluded. It’s for everyone.
And then He explains that to be well prepared basically means to be free people. It is not a matter of studies, titles, capacity, but freedom from oneself.
And freedom, according to Jesus, is one who does not flee from himself for fear of seeing himself in the truth.
That is to say, whoever has experienced that abundant measure of mercy that the Father has towards him, and no longer needs to hide himself, to appear other than what he is.
He doesn’t need to hide his own evil, because he knows himself accepted and forgiven in his indigence.
Whoever, instead, is still afraid, will seek a way to hide, and one of the easiest and most popular ways will be to fix one’s gaze on the other person’s evil, to avoid seeing one’s own (Lk 6:41). When he tries to love, in reality he will be like a blind person who guides another blind person: he cannot but lead him into his own darkness, into his own fear of seeing.
He will do it, obviously, with the excuse of doing good, but will avoid the most important experience that believers can have, that of seeing and seeing oneself in the light of the Father’s mercy. The only condition for doing good, then, is to have first experienced the goodness of the Lord: this is enough, nothing else is needed. But if this is lacking, the good that one does will not have the power to free the other from his own darkness and, on the contrary, will risk pushing him into an even darker darkness.
Furthermore, removing a beam from one’s own eye can be a very painful action: it’s not done lightly. This pain is valuable, and only those who have the courage to through it will have the sensitivity and delicacy to remove the splinter in the eye of his brother: he will know the kind of pain is exposed, and he will do it with skill, with compassion.
Whoever is capable of this, whoever is in a steady attitude of humility and conversion, is like a good tree, which can only give good fruit (Lk 6: 43-44): therefore, it is not a matter of striving to love, but letting the Lord free us from evil and heal our hearts, and then love will follow.
And the first fruit will not be works as much as words (Lk 6:45): those who are saved know new words and new ways of speaking, able to share the good riches they have received, the good they have seen with their eyes, in themselves and in brothers and sisters.
By: Most Rev. Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa