The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [C]
Sir 27:4-7 + 1 Cor 15:54-58 + Lk 6:39-45
March 3, 2019
“Remove the wooden beam from your eye first….”
When you make your nightly examination of conscience, and prepare monthly for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there’s a simple way to recollect yourself. After all, if it’s been a long day or an even longer month, you might feel unsure how best to assess your efforts—or failures—to live your life in Christ.
This simple means of self-recollection is to remember that all the commandments of the spiritual life converge in Jesus Christ. What does this mean? Back up a minute and look at the bigger picture of the Ten Commandments.
Remember that God inscribed the Ten Commandments upon two tablets. One tablet bears the first three commandments, which teach us how to love God. The other tablet bears the latter seven commandments, which teach us how to love our neighbor. All the commandments converge in Jesus because Jesus alone is both God and man.
In other words, to love Jesus as God is to fulfill the first three commandments. If we do this authentically, then we love God the Father and the Holy Spirit with Jesus. Likewise, to love Jesus as a fellow human is to fulfill the latter seven commandments: if we do this authentically, then we love all our neighbors in Him. This isn’t to say that we don’t at times need to focus our love specifically upon the Father and the Holy Spirit, or upon individual human neighbors around us who are in need. But all of our loves in life, and all the ways in which we love, converge in Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel passage offers a concrete example. The imagery with which Jesus preaches today seems only to be about the challenge of loving our neighbor: specifically, a sinful (“blind”) neighbor. But since the two great commands of Jesus—to love God fully, and to love our neighbor as our self—converge in Him, we are not to look down on our sinful brother, but rather to look up at him.
Looking up to our sinful brother is possible by means of the Christian virtue of humility. Christian humility is in one sense nothing more than honesty. Both my brother and I are sinners. We are equal in this. But Jesus calls me to serve my brother as if I were serving Jesus Himself. For this reason, from my state of sinfulness, I look up at my sinful brother. From this stance, I may help him remove the splinter from his eye.
But how can I see Jesus in a sinner? Jesus, of course, never sinned, yet God the Father “made [Jesus] to be sin”—in the phrase of St. Paul [see 2 Corinthians 5:21]—so that in my sinful brother I can see Jesus as the one whom I am to serve.
We often think of Jesus carrying the Cross so that each of us can love God more easily. Not as often, likely, do we think of how Jesus carrying the Cross can help each of us love our neighbor more easily.
Consider humility from a different perspective. After all, it’s easy to be humble before God. God is the Almighty Lord, eternal and all-knowing. I, on the other hand, am a sinner whose failures show me every day how weak and ignorant I am. The infinite contrast—indeed, the infinite chasm—between God and me makes it easy to be humble before God. In that sense, the first three commandments are easier to obey than the latter seven.
The latter seven commandments can be more demanding, for we often convince ourselves that we don’t “owe” anything to our neighbors, least of all our love. If love is only a feeling, then naturally I will only love the lovable: that is, those who evoke good feelings within me. But Christian love goes deeper than mere feelings. The love who is God reaches down into the human will and conforms it to His divine will, so that the human person loves as God loves, in the deepest manner.
Christian love is deepest when it loves the unlovable. On Calvary, Jesus sacrificed His Body and Blood, soul and divinity not only for His Blessed Mother, the Beloved Disciple, and St. Mary Magdalen. He just as willingly sacrificed His whole self for those who nailed Him to the Cross, beat the crown of thorns into His Sacred Head, and scourged Him at the pillar.
All of the commandments of the spiritual life converge in Jesus Christ. Jesus reveals to us the love who is the Most Blessed Trinity, and through Jesus we share in that love. Jesus reveals to us who man is called to be, but Jesus also reveals to us the depths of human sinfulness, and through the love of God we embrace the sinner in Christ crucified.