“Take the plank out of your own eye first”

I’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the outcome of Brexit but not necessarily from a ‘political’ point of view.  For me, the under-belly of this narrative is a cohort of working-class people – the disenfranchised, finding a voice having being ignored for so long.  I’m not clear if the outcome attained was what they actually wanted, perhaps it was more a case that they were at least listened to and clearly heard by the ‘leaders’ who seemed to be listening!


When individual droplets merge with more droplets the outcome is an ocean. In a similar way, when what is in our hearts is ignored, its content becomes buried – not dead but very much alive.  This ‘ignoring’ eventually becomes what Karl Jung calls the ‘collective unconscious’ or indeed the ‘shadow’ and it’s from here that the dynamic around political leaders can be most seen.  For example, the dynamic that oozes from those attending Donald Trump rallies or other far-right rallies – that dynamic is the igniting of what has been ignored – alas politicians become the embodiment of this and know how to manipulate it for their own ends. The reality is, it’s much easier to see the fault in them but “it’s much harder to see the deep roots of prejudice in ourselves” (Parker Palmer).


In Matthew 7:3 Jesus says: “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?”  Reflecting on Brexit and my understanding of the hidden narrative, caused me to examine my own heart.  Is there anything in me that resonates with any aspect of those who speak about racism, about xenophobia, homophobia, bigotry, separateness?


The twelve-step programme – a framework of recovery for those in addiction, presents a template of rigorous honesty.  Two of these steps include: “Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves” followed by: “Admitted to God and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”.  If an addict needs to be this rigorous in order to remain sober, is it not true for me to be as rigorous in my honesty with the Lord and with “another human being” to ensure that my heart is clean?  In Ps 51: David says “For I acknowledge my offense…a clean heart create for me Oh God and a steadfast spirit renew within me”. Does not St. Paul urge us to be “Transformed by the renewal of [our] minds”? (Romans 12:2)


Prof Omid Safi in his latest blog asked the question: “How can I love you more today?” To which I found myself responding: “That you may be freed from my projections”!


What does that mean?  It means that when I fail to do a ‘moral inventory’ I begin to see you as ‘other’, as ‘different’ and the ‘you’ becomes the object of my unresolved fears.  However, when my heart is right, I see you not as ‘other’ but as a member of my family.


I have an ethical responsibility to work on my heart to ensure that I see you as you are and not based on any illusion coming from my shadow-self.  Anthony de Mello says: “The beauty of an action comes not from its having become a habit, but from its sensitivity, consciousness, clarity of perception and accuracy of response”. Without a moral inventory, I’m blind and my action is also ‘blind’.

I’m equally aware that as different single droplets work to take ‘the plank’ out of their eyes, each of these droplets when brought together, form another ‘ocean’ – an authentic community from where ‘clarity of perception’ and ‘accuracy of response’ coexist.

At the Ignite Service last week, having spent my morning pondering the points raised above, my heart was gladdened so much by the evidence of hearts that reflected the ‘fruit’ of their interior life. This put me in mind of a quote from Cardinal Roger Mahony:

“Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members – the last, the least, the littlest.”

Today, this quote became a living reality. In our service this morning, we were invited to see how we could best co-create with God, a just and loving society.  This attitude of heart stood in stark contrast to where the voice of the disenfranchised was ignored and pushed to the margins.

So “How best can I love you today”? May I find courage to compassionately embrace my brokenness and dare to overcome my fear so that I am freed to be authentically present to you, to hear your story, to bear witness to your pain and to bring comfort and right action to address your need.


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