8th Sunday of the Year Sirach 27:4–7; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58; Luke 6:39–45
Splinters and beams Criticism destroys both the one who criticizes and the one who is criticized.
Some time ago a national magazine carried an article about lucky people.
It began by pointing out that some people seem to get all the breaks, while other people seem to get none of the breaks.
It then went on to make a surprising statement. It said that lucky people are often the cause of their good luck, while unlucky people are often the cause of their bad luck. The statement was backed up by a series of examples.
Finally, the article addressed the big question that was on everybody’s mind. How do lucky people often cause their breaks? What do they do to make themselves candidates for good luck?
And how do unlucky people often cause their bad breaks? What do they do to make themselves candidates for bad luck?
The answer that the author of the article gave made a lot of sense. It said that lucky people, by and large, are people who have an upbeat attitude. They are people who are positive and affirming.
Above all, they are people who have a knack for focusing on the good side of things, especially the good side of other people.
In contrast, unlucky people often have a downbeat attitude. They are people who are negative and hostile. Above all, they are people who have the habit of focusing on the bad side of everything, especially the bad side of people. They are people who are prone to criticize. They are people who are prone to find fault.
They are the kind of people Jesus talks about in today’s gospel when he says:
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but pay no attention to the log in your own eye?
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Please, brother, let me take that speck out of your eye,’yet cannot even see the log in your own eye?
“You hypocrite!First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Agood example of what Jesus is talking about appears in the Alcoholics Anonymous manual entitled Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions.
The first step that all AAs take is to admit that they are powerless over alcohol and that their lives have become unmanageable.
The second step is to believe that a power greater than themselves can restore them to sobriety.
The manual goes on to say that many AAs have problems with this step because and I quote the manual here “we were plumb disgusted with religion and all its works.
“We gloated over the hypocrisy, bigotry, and crushing self-righteousness that clung to so many ‘believers’ even in their Sunday best. How we loved to shout the damaging fact that millions of ‘good men of religion’ were still killing one another off in the name of God. . . .
“In belaboring the sins of some religious people, we could feel superior to all of them. Moreover, we could avoid looking at some of our shortcomings. Self-righteousness, the very thing that we contemptuously condemned in others, was our own besetting evil.’’
That’s just another way of saying what Jesus said:
“You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will be able to see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
That brings us back to our original question: What do lucky people do to attract good luck, and what do unlucky people Do to attract bad luck?
One major reason is that no one likes being around negative, hostile people.
So whenever a job opportunity or the like comes up, people invariably seek out positive, affirming people to fill the opening.
This brings us to an important second point. If a negative, judgmental, critical attitude is destructive of one’s own self, it is even more destructive of others.
Instead of encouraging others, we discourage them. What most people need today is not criticism but encouragement. Our world would be a much more productive world and definitely a happier one if we realized that what most people need is praise rather than criticism.
In the late 1800s a boy was working in a London store. He had to rise at five o’clock each morning, sweep the store, and then work fourteen hours. He stood it for two years and then told his mother that he would kill himself if he had to continue.
Following his talk with his mother, the boy wrote a pathetic letter to a teacher he had in his earlier years. He explained how he was heartbroken and no longer wanted to live.
The teacher praised him as a person and assured him that he was greatly gifted.
To make a long story short, that letter of encouragement changed the boy’s entire life. He went on to become one of England’s most successful writers, authoring nearly eighty books. His name is H. G.Wells.
And so today’s gospel invites us to take a look at our general attitude.
Are we a person who is adding to the joy in our world by affirming and encouraging other people? Or are we a Person who is adding to the sorrow in our world by constantly nagging and criticizing others?
If we are the latter kind of person, we need to take to heart the words of Jesus and realize that by our negative attitude we are destroying not only ourselves but also those around us.
Let’s close with a prayer:
God our Father, help us heed the words of your Son in today’s gospel.
Help us realize that what we all need in the course of life is not someone to remind us of how bad we are, but someone to remind us of how good we are.
Help us realize that what makes us grow and what makes other people grow is not a negative, judgmental attitude, but an affirming and loving heart.
Series II 8th Sunday of the Year Sirach 27:4–7; 1 Corinthians 15:54–58; Luke 6:39–45
The king’s new clothes Christians have been called to lead the blind and not to be led by them.
Hans Christian Andersen was a great storyteller. One of his most famous stories is called “The King’s New Clothes.’’ It goes something like this:
There was once a king who was fond of clothes. He didn’t care about power. He didn’t care about money. He didn’t care about travel. All he cared about was clothes. He loved clothes and spent all his money on them.
One day two swindlers came to his kingdom. They claimed to be weavers of a remarkable cloth. They told the king that they could weave for him the most magnificent clothes imaginable.
“Best of all,’’ they told the king, “the cloth is invisible to anyone who is stupid and unfit to hold public office.’’
The king was delighted and commissioned them to weave a set of royal garmentsfrom this remarkable cloth.
“Besides making me look handsome,’’ thought the king, “these new clothes will also allow me to learn who is stupid and unfit to hold public office in my kingdom.’’
One day the king sent his highest official to the weavers to check on the progress of his new clothes. The swindlers made a great pretense of showing the clothes to the high official. In truth, there were no clothes at all.
But the high official didn’t want to appear stupid and unfit to hold public office, so he pretended to see them. Then he returned to the king and told him how beautiful the clothes were. The king was thrilled.
Finally, the day came for the king to dress in his new clothes and parade through the streets of his kingdom to show them to his subjects.
The king was shocked when the swindlers dressed him in his new clothes. He couldn’t see them, because there were no clothes.
But the king didn’t want to appear stupid and unfit for public office, so he pretended to see them. He told the swindlers how pleased he was with his new clothes.
And so the king paraded through the streets to show off his new clothes to his subjects. Well, his subjects were shocked when the king appeared. He had no clothes on at all!
But they didn’t want to appear stupid and unfit to hold public office, so they pretended to see the king’s new clothes. They applauded and cheered loudly as he passed. The king was delighted.
Then, all of a sudden, a little boy turned to his mother and said, “The king has nothing on! The king has nothing on!’’
Then, slowly, all the people around the boy began to whisper to one another, “The king has nothing on!’’ The king overheard the whispers and knew that the people were right. But he thought to himself, “I must go on with this. I cannot stop now.’’ That famous story contains an important message for modern Christians, like ourselves.
Jesus told us that we are to be a light to the world. We are to be a lamp on a lampstand, giving light to the whole house. We are to be a city built on a mountaintop, giving light to the whole world.
In a modern society filled with error, confusion, and sham, we must stand out. We cannot simply follow the crowd and go along with what it says and does. We must think for ourselves. We must have the courage of our convictions. We cannot simply follow the crowd blindly.
This is what Jesus is getting at in today’s gospel when he says that one blind person cannot be the guide for another blind person. Otherwise, they will both fall into the ditch.
If we accept many of the values of our world, and follow the crowd, we are letting a blind person lead us. We are a seeing-eye person being led around by a blind dog.
We are like the people in Hans Christian Andersen’s story, who allowed themselves to be taken in by the two swindlers.
Jesus has not called us and given us the truth to let it lie fallow. He called us and gave us the truth so that we may share it with the rest of our world. He called us and gave us the truth so that we may be a light to the world and salt for society. Jesus told his disciples: “You are like salt for the whole human race. But if salt loses its saltiness, there is no way to make it salty again.It has become worthless, so it is thrown out and people trample on it.” Matthew 5:13
Our calling as Christians is to stand out from the crowd and lead it not to follow it blindly, like the people who followed the swindlers in Hans Christian Andersen’s story.
Our calling as Christians is to speak out with the courage of our convictions, like the boy in Hans Christian Andersen’s story.
Unless we do this, we are simply another blind person in a world of blind people. And we will all end up falling into the ditch.
Practically, this means that we must speak out against injustice wherever we find it.
We must speak out against prejudice wherever we find it.
We must speak out against exploitation of minorities wherever we find it.
We must speak out against the destruction of our planet wherever we find it.
We cannot go along with the swindlers of our time. We must speak out as the little boy did in Andersen’s story.
We cannot let the blind lead us.
This is the message that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel. This is why we have gathered here today, to remind ourselves of our calling: to be a light to our world and salt for our society.
This is what we celebrate in today’s liturgy.
This is what we pray for as we return to the Lord’s Table to celebrate the Lord’s Supper. Series III 8th Sunday of the Year Sirach 27:4–7, 1 Corinthians 15:54–58, Luke 6:39–45
Kindness “It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices.”Matthew 12:7
Every tree is known by the fruit it bears.” Luke 6:44
One day Anne Herbert was finishing her lunch in a restaurant in Sausalito, California.
Suddenly she took a pencil from her purse and wrote down a phrase that she had been mulling over for days.
She left the restaurant feeling that she had finally gotten it right. And she was right.
Before long, Anne’s phrase began popping up in all kinds of places. Judy Foreman saw it spray-painted on a warehouse 100 miles from her home.
When Judy got home, she tried to recall it and write it down. But it wasn’t quite right. So what did she do?
She drove 100 miles back to the warehouse, parked her car, and copied down the phrase.
Her husband, who is a schoolteacher, liked the phrase so much that he put it on the wall of his classroom. One of the girls in his class happened to be the daughter of a local newspaper columnist. He put it in his column. Anne’s phrase now began to appear everywhere on bumper stickers, refrigerator doors, and at the bottom of letters.
What was the phrase? It consisted of only eight words. They read:
Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
Let me repeat the phrase. It read:
Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Retold from an article by Adair Lara in Glamour magazine
Why does that phrase have such a widespread appeal— especially among the young and the young of heart?
Whatever the reason, a little reflection on the phrase does remind us of something we tend to forget.
Every one of us, regardless of our age or our financial situation in life, has within ourselves an amazing power. It is the ability to impact the lives of other people for good or for evil.
And sometimes the simplest act of kindness or goodness can impact another’s life in a way that can change that person’s life.
Some years ago, Dr. Robert Healy wrote a letter to Psychology Today magazine.
In it he told about a young man who entered therapy after a near brush with suicide. The young man was on his way to leap from a bridge to his death.
Stopping for a traffic light, he glanced over to the sidewalk. On the curb was an elderly lady who gave him the most beautiful smile he had ever seen.
Just then the light changed. As the young man continued on his way toward the bridge, he could not get the lady’s smile out of his mind. He ended up turning around and returning home. He told Dr. Healy that he owed his life to that elderly lady. The warmth and kindness of her smile became a vehicle of grace at the most critical moment of his life.
In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about good people and bad people. More specifically, he alludes to the impact that the acts of good people and bad people can have on people’s lives.
We might compare the act of a good person to a stone thrown into a pond. It creates a ripple that travels far beyond the point where the stone hit the water.
Take the smile of the elderly lady standing on the sidewalk.
Her warm, loving smile was the smallest and simplest of acts, but it rippled forth to change the course of a young man’s life.
And it continues to ripple forth, impacting the lives of the thousands of people who read Dr. Healy’s letter in Psychology Today magazine. That brings us back to Anne Herbert’s phrase and its widespread appeal:
Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.
I think part of its widespread appeal stems from the beautiful way it expresses a truth that we are all aware of but need to be reminded of from time to time.
It is the glorious truth that we all have within ourselves the power to impact the lives of others regardless of our age or social status.
We are all painfully aware of how random cruelty and senseless acts of violence are creating a tidal wave of evil that threatens our society.
What we forget and need to be reminded of is how “random kindness” and “senseless acts of beauty” can create a tidal wave of good that can reverse this threat to society.
And there is no better place to begin practicing “random kindness” and “senseless acts of beauty” than in our own homes. If we are kind to one another and do beautiful things at home, I guarantee you this: Like the stone thrown into a pond, those acts of kindness and beauty will ripple out far beyond the home.
Mother Teresa summed up the same idea this way:
Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.
Let’s conclude with these words attributed to Stephen Grellet:
We shall pass through this world but once.
Any good therefore that we can do, or any kindness that we can show to any human being, let us do it now.
Let us not defer it or neglect it, for we shall not pass this way again. Slightly adapted