Sister Jan Ginzkey, OSB reflects on the scripture readings:
Sirach 27:4-7; Psalms 92:2-3, 13-16; I Corinthians 15:54-58; Luke 6:39-45
The readings from Sirach and Luke seem to focus on how we listen and see. Who do we listen to and look for? Why do we listen and see?
Sirach reminds us that our attitude, actions, and speech are linked together. Sirach instructs that one must be aware. We are to guard our speech, our actions, and attitudes. How many of us have heard, “Think before you speak!” Or “Think before you act!” Did you ever have anyone say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all?” Growing up, my mother repeated these phrases often to me and my siblings, especially if we were having arguments. In high school I was drafted into the debate team. The sister in charge would often say, speak up, speak clearly, be concise and use reason and logic. People who have hearing loss often ask others to speak slowly. The point Sirach and I are making is that our speech reveals who we are, what we believe, and how we will act.
In the Gospel today Luke is concerned with our vision. To see clearly a person has to be aware, honest, and humble. If there is a wooden beam in your eye you cannot see the speck in the others’ eye. What can the beam symbolize? It can be any one of a multitude of attitudes and/or behaviors; stubbornness, pride, judgementalism, perfectionism, passive aggression, poor self-esteem etc. The beam is anything that prevents a person from self- awareness, acknowledging or accepting their humanness and failing to act in a loving way.
It’s impossible to remove a speck from your own eye without a mirror. To remove the speck, one has to be gentle, careful and see clearly. Anyone who has worn contact lenses can attest to the need of a mirror to locate an eyelash or a lens that has slipped off the pupil. This is extremely uncomfortable, blurs one’s vision and usually requires taking the lens out and washing it. When it is put in again the vision is clear and can be focused.
I believe Sirach and Luke are encouraging me to be aware. Who and what do I listen too? Studies have shown people tend to listen for those who support or express what they want to believe. I look for what I want to see. The radio or TV news I listen to, the social media I use, and whether I like, unfriend, or re-post (often without verifying the accuracy/truth) can really affect what I believe and who I want to associate with. This can add to division and polarization.
I hope I am listening to the Holy Spirit through the scriptures. I want to express, to enflesh the Gospel values of love, accepting the marginalized, the suffering. I want to forgive myself and others for the times and ways I have not acted as Jesus would. I can show my respect and honor the dignity of each person by listening to their story. I can allow each one to develop his/her gifts and talents. I can look for the good, for the Christ in each person.
I recall the wisdom and challenge I have heard in Bishop Hanifen’s homilies. Instead of getting angry or ignoring someone who does not agree with the way I believe, I can ask, “Tell me more so I can understand.” Or “I don’t see it that way, I’d like to know more about why you believe that.” I can try to engage in conversation and intentionally listen to the other person. I would also like to have the other person listen and hear as I share from my heart.
Instead of judging someone by the clothes they wear, the presence of tattoos, or their hairstyle, I can take time to look at the person. Can I have the courage to engage with that person? Can I dare to get to know someone who has a different belief, a different culture, who is a different race?
Luke is saying that I/we need to clarify our own vision. The clearest vision is when I can allow Christ to see though my eyes. I can hear more distinctly when I allow Christ to listen through my ears to the heart of the other person.
In our country today, with the polarization, hate crimes, blaming, lack of respect and false narratives, it takes great courage to really listen to and to see the good in others. However, the readings today implore each and all of us to reach out, to risk. I believe if more of us practiced civil discourse and listening with respect to one another’s stories we would begin to see more clearly and work for the common good of everyone. None of us have perfect hearing or perfect vision but we can continually seek to clarify what we hear and see. St. Paul asks us to be firm, steadfast, and devoted to the work of God. Above all we want to express deep gratitude for all the gifts we have received.