Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? (Luke 6:41)
I’ve not had cataract surgery but many people who have report a remarkable new experience of seeing things more clearly. Colors are brighter, leaves on trees have edges, and things in general are more vivid. What once was all fuzzy is now clear.
Many times in life, what we think we are seeing isn’t really what there is to see. And the gospel helps us see things clearer, if we will allow that gospel to sink into our hearts.
We all carry things around inside us that cloud our vision. Early in my priesthood, I dealt with someone who seemed to be angry with me all the time. I made a number of mistakes with that person which exacerbated his anger but I knew his anger wasn’t all about me. As I got to know him better I discovered that his father was a priest and a great deal of what I had to deal with was his projection onto me. He and his father were somewhat estranged and I represented some difficult things to him. Also, his expectations of priests were pretty unrealistic and I couldn’t quite measure up. My discoveries with this man led me to see that I project a great deal onto others myself. Many times the things I hate in someone else is a part of myself that I see in that person. I feel so uncomfortable with that part of myself that seeing it in someone else is too much of a reminder of my own shortcomings. Maybe that’s part of what Jesus is talking about when he tells his listeners to remove the log from their own eyes before casting judgment on others. But the gospel is not just advice; the gospel is remedy.
I think the great enemy I face as a priest is not sinfulness as it manifests itself in doing wrong things but sinfulness as it results from seeing God differently than he is revealed in Christ Jesus. As broken humans we carry so many fears around inside us. We fear that we have no value. We fear some sort of divine punishment. We see the chaos in the world and in our hearts and we imagine God totally out of control. We see injustices around us and dismiss God as one who is not paying close enough attention. If God wanted to fix all this he could and he isn’t fixing it, so something’s bad wrong. Such logs in our eyes of faith cause us to see all sorts of things in others, or even ourselves, that may not be there. Or we see things that are there in others or ourselves and we are so threatened by them that a deep hatred develops in our sight. We become cynical, prejudiced, bigoted, self-centered, self-justifying.
Our Christian faith talks about the day of accountability we will all face with God. We say that God knows all our weaknesses and sins and that we will bear some sort of responsibility for the wrongs we have done and the rights we have left undone. Though there’s an element of truth to that line of thinking, it has us as the determinative factor in our salvation. And it quickly leads us to forget that God’s mercy and God’s grace are the things that fully determine salvation.
The truth of the gospel is that God sees us for who we truly are, sinful yes, but already redeemed and whole. God sees us through the eyes of Christ Jesus. God knows the wrongs we commit but, in God’s kingdom, everything is already redeemed and whole. God sees things not just as they are but as they are to become. For God the world has already been saved and is operating fully within his will. We are trapped in the present and can’t see how things will one day be but as God lives in the past, present, and future all at once, God sees things completed in grace. As we know with our children that things they think are the end of the world are things which will turn out well, God knows with all of us that ultimately our lives will turn out well. God is not limited to this present moment like we are. Our greatest hopes are the reality in which God dwells.
That’s the log we carry in our eyes of faith, our fears and anger about how things are. Because of that log we fail to see the hope that exists in the world. Christ comes to remove that log from our eyes so that we may see the world as God sees it. Yes, God sees all that is wrong in me and you and others. And God has already acted to resolve all those wrongs. God’s justice is pure and he makes things well and good. That doesn’t mean we are always happy or that we ignore the injustices in the world. Actually our seeing the injustices is part of what God sees too. But God sees the whole world already redeemed. That’s what is hard for us to see. But Christ shows that to us.
God sees you for who you really are. God loves us into being loving creatures. The full goodness of the gospel is coming about. Many times in life, what we think we are seeing isn’t really what there is to see. And the gospel helps us see things clearer, if we will allow that gospel to sink into our hearts.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.