Where Are the Beams
Jesus often strikes me as someone with a flair for the dramatics. I always enjoy the way Jesus uses extravagant metaphors and hyperbole in his parables. In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls out hypocrites, those who notice the splinter in their neighbors’ eyes but fail to notice the wooden beam in their own. This may seem rather comical to us, and perhaps even the disciples. Of course we would notice if there was a wooden beam in our eyes, wouldn’t we?
This passage in Luke appears to have three separate parts. First a parable, then the piece on wooden beams, then a passage about good hearts. These three parts are also present in the Gospel of Matthew, although they are divided up differently in Matthew; the three parts do not appear all together as they do in Luke. In Matthew, these three parts appear in a completely different order, in completely different chapters. For the writer of Luke, it was important that these three parts be a part of the same discourse by Jesus, together. Why? Perhaps because the three separate stories are intimately related. First, we are told that a disciple needs to train to be like their teacher. Then, that we shouldn’t be hypocritical. Finally, that we should speak from “the store of goodness in [our] hearts (Luke 6:45). These last two pieces are what we are meant to learn in order to be like the teacher. In fact, ultimately, this entire discourse, which goes beyond the confines of this Gospel, is telling us how to act as disciples. We are also told to love our enemies, be merciful, and not judge.
The second directive on the store of goodness seems to flow from the first, the one on hypocrisy. In order to have goodness stored in our heart, we must first take a look at ourselves. We don’t have to be perfect, certainly. But we do need to notice when we do have a beam in our eye. And what’s more, we have to deal with our own wooden beams.
We are about to begin the liturgical season that ends with Jesus nailed those wooden beams we have failed to notice. As Lent approaches, we are called to take a look at ourselves and see where our wooden beams are. Have we been talking too much instead of listening? Have we been approaching others with something that is less than love? Have we been too busy to pray? Whatever our wooden beams are, we are invited to identify them and to work on them, with God’s help. After all, it is never hyperbolic to say that God is always with us.