Friday September 9, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14) Gospel (St. Luke 6:39-42)
Our Lord in the Gospel reading today gets directly to a point of human weakness that is in most all of us, that is, we like to be able to notice everybody else’s problems while trying our best to ignore our own. We stand in judgment oftentimes of others. We like to point out their weaknesses. If we really stop and think about it, it is not usually done out of charity at all. Most often, it is done out of a sense of arrogance and also out of a sense of self-defense. That is, if we can point out somebody else’s fault and put them on the defensive then they cannot point out ours; it is a matter of trying to beat them to the punch. But Our Lord points out to us that what we are pointing out in someone else tends to be pretty tiny, whereas what we have within our own selves tends to be quite huge, and that we really do not stand in any kind of position to point out the faults in everyone else until we can get rid of the beam in our own eye first.
So we see the example of Saint Paul. He tells us that he was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. Then he says that he has been treated mercifully because he acted out of ignorance, but that the grace of Christ has been abundant in his life. So it is with each of us. If, like Saint Paul, we are willing to humble ourselves, to acknowledge who we really are, to acknowledge our sinfulness, to acknowledge our weakness, to allow the Lord to work within us so that He can point out all of the beams (as well as the splinters) that are in our own eyes, then we will be able to see clearly, then we can actually point things out to others and it will be done not in an arrogant way, not in a way that is intended to keep the focus off of us, but rather it will be done out of charity and with a focus on Christ.
We see the entire difference in the manner in which things are done. Jesus needs to be the focal point. Our charity in pointing out another’s fault is done to help the person, not for any selfish reason, but purely out of charity. Once again, if that is the case, then Our Lord is the one who is the center point. It is not “me and this other person,” but rather it is about the Lord and helping the other person to be able to draw closer to the Lord and to become more Christ-like. That is the way we have to be. But, of course, in order to do that, we have to make sure that our focus is on Christ. It is very, very easy to be able to pick apart somebody else, but it is not so easy to be able to be truly charitable because when we pick them apart it is really about our own selves. That says something about where our focus is. But if our focus is on Christ in prayer then there is an entire difference in the manner and the way that we do things. So that is what we have to be about.
Certainly, within our own states in life, it may be incumbent upon us to point out other people’s faults, but we need to do it in charity; not because we think we are better than they are, not because we want to pick on them so they cannot pick on us, but rather so that they can grow closer to Christ. That has to begin with the acknowledgment of our own faults, that we are the greatest of sinners. Read any of the saints and they all say the exact same thing: “I am the worst of all.” And this is coming from some people who have never committed a mortal sin in their lives! Yet they will tell us that they are the worst sinner of all. It kind of puts it in perspective for the rest of us, then, doesn’t it?
So we recognize that we cannot stand in judgment of anyone, we cannot stand arrogantly before anyone to point things out, we can only stand humbly before the Lord, acknowledging our own faults, our own sinfulness, our own extreme weakness. It is only out of that kind of humility, and following from that, out of charity, that we are able to point things out in others; not because we are anything great or because we are some sort of expert that can do it, but rather if we are looking at Jesus, and out of charity for another we want them to grow in perfection and virtue and holiness, and to become closer to the Lord, that is the reason why we would do the things that we would do: so that we will grow closer, that they will grow closer, that the grace of Christ will abound abundantly in each, so that the love of God will be greater.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.