Of Blasphemers, Blind Leaders, Splinters, Beams...and Golden Mouths
“Prayer is a treasure undiminished, a mine never exhausted, a sky unobstructed by clouds, a haven unruffled by storm.” ~ St. John Chrysostom
A lot going on in our Daily Mass Readings today but first, a few words on Saint John Chrysostom, a prodigious evangelical reformer, priest and doctor of our Church whose Feast Day we celebrate today.
Dubbed “he of the golden mouth” for his ability to orate, evangelize and casually spin one epic quote after another, Saint John Chrysostom was the Archbishop of Constantinople and one of the more engaging and prolific authors of the early Christian Church. He would go on to become 1 of only 37 Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a man who truly exemplified the role of the prophet, that of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable. As is always the case however, his forthrightness made him the subject of much scorn and vilification. He would ultimately go on to die in exile, an inglorious and unjust earthly fate for a man of such prominence and influence. “There is nothing colder than a Christian who does not seek to save others,” he would often say, poignant words that each of us would do well to incorporate into our lives.
In today’s 1st Reading (1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14) we look in on Paul during his initial correspondence with Timothy, a young man who would go on to become a protege of sorts. “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man,” Paul confesses to Timothy, “but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” This is Jesus in action; he knows no other way. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” Paul was able to rise above his self-professed ignorance by the grace of God and only by the grace of God. And so it goes for us.
In our Gospel (Luke 6:39-42) Jesus admonishes those on hand for their incessant habit of judging others. “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” Jesus asks them, pointing out the hypocrisy of their actions in the process. The topic of hypocrisy has been on the front burner in recent days (https://hubpages.com/religion-philosophy/Of-Not-So-Delightful-Hypocrites-False-Guides-and-Saints-in-Jest). Jesus clearly abhors this sin.
Bishop Barron defines hypocrisy as essentially “looking away from our guilt, our fault, our darkness. We are effectively drugging ourselves, dulling the pain of real self-consciousness. In the process, we turn ourselves into God, pretending to be absolute, flawless, and impervious to criticism.” It’s not an easy habit to shake. Politicians and other public figures partake of it habitually. By typing that last sentence, I too was hypocritical, pointing out the flaws of those mentioned while I’m prone to bouts of hypocrisy myself.
But as the quote chosen from Saint John Chrysostom to kick off today’s essay suggests, it is through prayer and reconciliation that we can be relieved of this deadly flaw. Through wisdom and self control, two powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit, we can indeed “remove the wooden beam from our eye first, so that we can see clearly to remove the splinter from our brother’s eye." Pray for these gifts of the Holy Spirit with great perseverance and confidence. “Prayer,” Saint John Chrysostom once said, “should be the means by which I, at all times, receive all that I need, and, for this reason, be my daily refuge, my daily consolation, my daily joy, my source of rich and inexhaustible joy in life.” Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7).
“Those who are wise will shine brightly like the splendor of firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever.” ~ Daniel 12:3
Saint John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, pray for us.