3-3-2019 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mar 4, 2019
8th Sunday / OT / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
For the past few weeks we have been listening to St. Luke’s "Sermon on the Plain." It’s like Matthew’s "Sermon on the Mount," the core of Jesus teachings that he probably repeated from place to place—sometimes on a mountain, sometimes on a plain. The teachings are short, pithy, to the point, clear images that explain profound truths.
Today, we come to the end of Luke’s "sermon" with some good, solid advice about our teachers, our advisors in the faith, our spiritual directors—how do we find the right one, how do we "follow" the right person?
As you know, there are plenty of spiritual advisors out there—in the media, radio and television, and all the self-help literature, along with the fad-du-jour, whether its crystals, or aromatherapy, transcendental meditation, or even CBD! How do we know the way?
The first advice Jesus gives us is "beware"—there are a lot of blind guides out there. "Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?" In ancient Palestine, there were plenty of large, deep pits where people had dug for water. A dry cistern. To fall into one could mean death. Jesus says that to follow the wrong person, at worst, could lead to spiritual death. Be careful whom you choose! A sick person should stay away from snake oil—it won’t help!
So how do we know if a guide is "blind" or can "see"? Well, Jesus says, "I am the light of the world . . . the one who follows me will have the light of life." Simply put, follow a person who is focused on Christ—a person in whom Christ is living. If you do, you will not be misled.
A second principle in finding the right teacher or spiritual director is to make sure that the person acknowledges his or her need for a savior—that they can admit their own sins and their need for forgiveness. This person is real—a person who can help you.
The image that Jesus uses to illustrate this is funny—though we have heard it so often it may have lost its punch. "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own."
Before we try to help another, we need to take care of ourselves. Try to imagine an eye surgeon doing very delicate eye surgery with a roof beam sticking out of his eye! He can’t even approach the patient! "Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye."
Here’s the point: every spiritual teacher is eager to point out your problem. But they can only help you to the extent they do their own work.
I reflect here on my own time as a spiritual director working in a seminary. It became very evident to me as I worked with the seminarians that I needed to do my own work—I could see the problems the seminarians were facing, but my advice sounded hollow until I did my own work—until I pulled the log out of my own eye.
The final image is that of "a good tree producing good fruit." If you wonder what a person is like, don’t just listen to what they say—watch what they do. Talk is cheap; actions speak louder than words. If you say your spiritual life is important, what do you do to make sure it stays healthy?
If I make you feel a little guilty, I’ll admit that I’m making myself feel guilty! I’m supposed to be a spiritual guide, but I know that I fall short.
In fact, we all fall short, and that’s why we’re here this morning. But with God’s grace, and the light of Christ, we can find the way.