The Gospel for today is
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
'Let me remove that splinter from your eye,'
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother's eye."
Two weeks ago yesterday - about 150 of the men in this Chapel gathered here together to pray, to talk about the scourge that the pornography industry has had on our culture, and then to go to a local “adult boutique” (is it me or is it even creepier that they call those places boutiques?) to pray in front of the store. The discussion before and after this prayer vigil - complete with exposition of the blessed Sacrament in front of the store thanks to Fr. Lager – was how a great majority of people have been afflicted by pornography; to explain to the men that in bringing the light of Christ to this, and to maybe share that struggles with this sin with one another- that all of us together can start to break the hold this industry has on our culture that leads to addiction, isolation, denegration of women, not to mention abuse. .[Video Clip of the Men at prayer]
It was powerful to experience the strength in numbers to have all these guys praying the rosary together at that place. And it was great that some passers-by offered words of encouragement and support. But the opposite happened as well. There were a few who yelled at all of us saying things like “you bunch of hypocrites - now you can go home and... (you can fill in the rest).” Having gone to the March for Life in the past, I’ve heard similar things, and it’s not uncommon that when people level the whole “hypocrisy” label on you, how quickly they will misquote this Gospel passage that we just heard saying “DOESN’T JESUS SAY JUDGE NOT?” - basically implying that unless you’re perfect, then you better not say anything about anyone’s imperfections.
Which is why it’s important for us, especially for those in ministry - priests, religious- and for missionaries preparing to go across the country to proclaim the Gospel on the various campuses your going to – for us to unpack this. We read this line where Jesus says “stop judging, that you may not be judged - For as you judge so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you...” and the sentence sounds Dr. Suess-like that we ignore that and get stuck on the whole splinter/wooden beam part of the Gospel which can easily be misinterpreted as “I better just keep my mouth shut.” We treat it like an insurance policy - if I’m not critical of someone else, God won’t be critical of me. In more popular terms it’s the “I’m ok - you’re ok” philosophy. Even some relativists will quote this scripture to try to lull us into thinking that Jesus is okay with -you do what you think is okay, and we’ll do the same and leave each other alone.
Really is that what Jesus is saying?
No – that’s what happens when people take select passages out of context. Let’s look at the Gospel scene where the woman was caught in adultery. Jesus calls out those with stones in their hands who were ready to hurl them at her because they were incredibly self-righteous, not to mention violent, and unjust in not holding the guy the woman was found with accountable. After Jesus levels them with “let the one without sin throw the first stone” they leave. But Jesus doesn’t excuse the woman’s sin. He’s quick to gently, lovingly forgive her and tells her to “go and sin no more.” That part gets left out by some who want to inhibit us Christians from confronting sin in the world.
That Gospel is a great illustration of what Jesus’ is getting at in today’s passage and what his expectations are in confronting evil, dealing with sin. We’re not to be walking around, patrolling the world with our catechism and bibles ready to hand out summons or tickets to people who’ve violated something. It all about our hearts, our intentions. We have to be pursuing holiness in our own lives first. Just going back to today’s passage – do we really think Jesus is okay with us walking around with wooden beams in our eyes? That’s why that example works so well - it’s not good for any of us to have beams or specks obscuring our vision of Him...
Which is the point – that you and I need to be dealing with our sins all the time. When on a daily basis we realize how we fall short. When we on a daily basis are thankful for God’s generous gifts of Mercy and Love and make use of those gifts in the Eucharist, in prayer, and in confession – that is what removes the beam from our eyes. That removes the judgmental and sometimes arrogant approaches we can have towards others who are struggling. That is what gives us peace, joy, freedom – because we are living in a loving relationship with Jesus. That is what attracts someone to see and notice there’s something different about how we’re living and then want it too.
Think of it like this: when you’re really great in soccer and someone sees you playing like that and wants to be like that, they start to follow you, ask you what makes you so good at that, and how they can play better as well – asking you to help them see their mistakes and deal with what’s preventing them from being better at soccer.
The men here who went on that prayer vigil weren’t claiming to be perfect in holiness, or trying to embarrass patrons or owners (if there’s nothing sinful about it, then there wouldn’t be any embarrassment, right?) Instead they gently brought their prayerful presence into an area that is so devoid of it, in a non-accusatory, gentle way – hopefully opening the hearts of those suffering from the effects of that sin to have Hope that they too can experience freedom from it and begin to desire it.
May each of us continue to engage the difficult work of removing all of the various wooden planks in our eyes not just for our salvation, but with the hope that others will engage the struggle and experience the new vision and sight that comes when each of us does the same
Here is my homily for the Feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ (Corpus Christi) - The readings can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/061012.cfm Thanks for reading and your feedback! God Bless
It’s hard to know when the shift happened when reality TV went from a documentary type of thing (like COPS) where you get a window into another person’s life to the twisted genre that it has become. But one example that really signaled a major warning alert was from a few years ago. And were it not for the students I work with at Montclair State University, I would have never even heard of it. It was called “Jon and Kate plus 8" - a show that followed a Pennsylvania couple as they go about raising twins and sextuplets.
It was a pretty popular show - despite my blissful ignorance of it. There was over 100 episodes before it became even more popular as well as becoming front-page news. Jon and Kate supposedly, allegedly, possibly had been unfaithful to each other. So the normal fan base or regular television audience of about 5 million doubled with this year’s season premiere. One columnist observed (in the Star Ledger – Leonard Pitts, 6/11/09 “So Many Lives Falling Apart. Now that’s entertainment!”):
“The premise was that viewers would follow the Pennsylvania couple’s adventures in parenting... but apparently, 100 episodes later, viewer interest has been shifted by the fact – and I only know what I read – Kate is a nagging harpy and they’ve both maybe been unfaithful. Now people are parsing episodes as they once parsed diplomatic communiques from Cold War summits, looking for clues to the state of their union in body language and offhand remarks. Two lives are falling apart for your amusement.”
This columnist pointed out numerous other examples of what falls under the category of “Pop culture” - what if you have a question about paternity? Tune into Maury! Gambling Addiction, well, Dr. Phil is up at 4:00. If you’re toddler goes missing, the second call is to the publicist. He concludes by saying, “We watch this family’s tragedy as if it were baseball ... but there is something deeply...debasing.... that touches both the watchers and the watched. It 'changes' us."
That line struck me: How we’ve grown accustomed to watching “lives falling apart for our amusement.” It seems we’ve crossed a truly sad line, doesn’t it? It was one thing to watch a soap opera or a drama on television. Even Law and Order had shows that were “ripped from the headlines.” But here we are tuning in each week as we pry into people’s brokenness. And the observation that this changes us is a troubling, yet true reflection. Some fans of Jon and Kate seemed more upset that characters in a drama they enjoyed have acted “out of character.” Some seemed more concerned about the future of the show than the future of this family. Sure, they are complete strangers to most of us, but the tremendous lack of concern or empathy that we justify with, “Well, they put themselves on the air, in the public spotlight,” seems to give voice to a tremendous lack of love.
What is it that we are feeding on? What is this consumption doing to us?
After filling up on this type (and countless other examples) of “junk food", we come together on a special feast - the feast of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. A celebration the Church has where we are invited to focus on what our God does for us. That God has kept his promise - that he would never leave us. And not as some observer out in a distant heaven. Jesus gives us His Body and His Blood - He tells us to “take it” - to feast on Him. To consume Him. And if we do this, worthily, He will consume us. Jesus will become intimately united with us as we share Him.
Is He really present in that consecrated bread and wine? Catholics are asked that all the time in polls and surveys, by friends who aren’t Catholic. And rather than be afraid of that - perhaps that’s a question we need to really reflect on for ourselves. If we don’t believe or have trouble believing or are struggling to believe - then why is that?
It’s not that the priest is celebrating Mass wrong. It’s not that the Church has messed up. For 2,000 years - the Church has gathered professing the same belief that Jesus gave those disciples in that upper room that night of the Last Supper. So if as I’m coming forward to receive Jesus, what is my doubt saying to me? What is that question that’s lingering in my head? What makes this that I receive seem unreal to me, as opposed to the things I receive and perceive more easily as “real”?
Can God make this bread and wine Jesus’ Body and Blood through His Holy Spirit moving through the Church, through the priest? Can we move beyond our selfish ways? Can we bring healing to people’s hurts? Can we bring justice and hope to those who are victimized and abused? Can we bring life to a culture of death? The Church has professed and witnessed an emphatic Yes to those questions. Yet, at the same time, each of us has to live that Yes we profess in our own hearts, our own souls, our own lives.
St. Augustine preached thousands of years ago, “Through the bread and wine, the Lord gives us His body and blood. If you receive them well, you are that which you receive; you become what your receive; you become what you eat.”
In short - this consumption has the ability to change us, too. Not for our amusement, but to bring God’s very life and love to a broken world.