On planks and compassion LUKE 6: 39–45
“Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?” THIS weekend, Luke’s Gospel presents us with a number of themes offered by Jesus. I have chosen the teaching on the non-observance of the log or plank as some versions have it.
Many of us traditionally interpret this passage to mean that we must never judge others, especially when we are guilty of the same sin or fault or perhaps even worse.
Some are often quick to remark ‘you should be the last person to talk’ when confronted with correction. Reading the text further, it says persons who notice the splinter in your brothers’ eye while not observing the plank in their own are hypocrites.
If we were to take splinter to mean faults, shortcomings or even sin, avoiding hypocrisy doesn’t mean that we should not or cannot observe the faults in others, nor is it hypocritical for us to point out these same wrongs or sin to them.
It is when we observe their faults and point it out as a means of disgracing or shaming them while we fail to recognise our own faults, we are being hypocrites. We must always be aware that we ourselves have our own faults, shortcomings and sin.
Moreover, we must be actively engaged in helping ourselves to be free of them. This, I believe, is at the heart of the challenge which is presented to us in today’s gospel. It is a challenge towards honesty with self and a more compassionate outlook on life and others.
It is not good enough for us to simply pretend that there is no wrong around us, nor should we be so inhibited by our own faults that we dare not say anything to anyone.
Indeed, that would be a very sad state of affairs if we were to withhold help or correction to others because we find that we are not in a position to judge or correct others as we ourselves are not perfect. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we have so much wrongdoing around us.
The maturity that Jesus calls us to begins with our having to face our own faults. i.e., “take the plank out of your own eye first”. We need to admit and accept our faults, wrongdoings and sin and take steps in correcting these for our own good. Then, Jesus says, “you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brothers’ eye.”
The challenge is one which directs us into a deeper way of living discipleship, a way in which we perceive others as a brother or sister first. In order to correct others, we need to begin from a place of self-correction and true concern for helping them, a place that allows us to always remember we too are imperfect.
In accepting our own planks and taking steps to remove them, then, with compassion, can we aid our brother or sister with their own splinters. This compassion, which should motivate us, admits that we have been there.
We know what it is like because we too, at times, have been blinded or impeded by larger splinters or even logs, so we now can help others. We must also remember that a splinter in the eye of anyone is a painful thing. We need to be gentle in our attempts at removing them.
This passage from Luke calls us to remember the higher priority we must hold and celebrate. It calls us to become true brothers and sisters to each other. We must learn what it is to express love even as we seek the good by correcting each other.
Our correction must always come from a heart like the Master, which is not hypocritical but genuine in love and concern for all.
Lord Jesus, You call us, Your disciples, to become more like You our true Master. You call us to honesty in accepting our brokenness and sin but more so to accept Your love, compassion and mercy which always exceeds what we know of You. In accepting Your compassion and love, O Lord, help us to become instruments of that same love and compassion to all our brothers and sisters. Amen.
The Gospel Meditations for March are by Fr Roger Paponette, Judicial Vicar and parish priest of San Rafael.