Did you hear about the lady who went to a lawyer and requested help with a divorce? The lawyer asked her, “What are your grounds?”
“Oh,” she said, “we have about an acre and a half.”
“I mean,” the lawyer said, “do you have a grudge?”
“Oh, yes,” she said, “we have a two car garage.”
“Lady,” the lawyer tried again, “does your husband beat you up?”
“No,” she said, “I usually get up an hour before he does.”
Finally, the exasperated lawyer asks her, “Do you want a divorce or not?”
“No,” she said, “I don’t want a divorce. My husband does. He thinks we can’t communicate.”
Two of our readings today have to do with communication. At first, we might think that, the better our vocabulary, the better we will be able to communicate. Well, not necessarily. For instance, here are two poetic versions of the same idea.
Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific.
Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.
Loftily poised in the ether capacious,
Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous
Or, in other words…
Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky.
A diamond in the sky…a gem carbonaceous… Sometimes simple words communicate better.
Jesus was concerned about how people communicate. He cured the blind, the deaf and the mute. Seeing, hearing and speaking helps us communicate.
Our first reading from the Book of Sirach warns us that speaking can reveal our faults. For instance, it is said that whatever we say about others says more about ourselves than it says about others. If we gossip, what does that say about us? Sirach tells us that one’s speech discloses the bent of one’s mind.
In our gospel today, Jesus warns about criticizing the speck in our neighbor’s eye, and not noticing the beam in our own eye. (I think that example by Jesus reveals something of his sense of humor. Imagine, a beam in one’s eye going unnoticed.)
I’d like to share a story that I told our school children in a recent homily. I hope the children present don’t mind if I repeat it. The story is about a husband and wife who sat at their kitchen table each morning around 10:00 AM and enjoyed a cup of coffee. Through their kitchen window they could easily see their neighbor’s back yard. Constantly the wife would criticize their neighbor’s white sheets hanging of the clothes life.
She’d say, “Look at those sheets. They are so grey. Why doesn’t she use bleach or a better brand of detergent?” This went on for a few weeks, the wife criticizing the neighbor’s grey sheets. Then one day, the wife looked out the window and she could see that the sheets were now a bright white.
“Well, it’s about time,” the wife said. “She finally got them clean.”
“Honey,” the husband said, “This morning I washed our windows.”
The sheets were never grey. They just looked grey to the wife, because she was looking at them through a dirty window.
Henry David Thoreau said, "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
Sometimes we think we see, but something is clouding up our vision, like a dirty window, and we don’t see clearly.
Anger can cloud our vision. Instead of seeing a friend, our anger makes them look like an enemy.
Jealously can cloud our vision. Instead of seeing the goodness of another, we see someone who has something we want and we are jealous of them.
Prejudice can cloud our vision. Instead of seeing how much we have in common with another, we see only differences that we don’t like.
Fear can cloud our vision. Instead of seeing dreams, we only see obstacles. And we get discouraged.
Sometimes habits can cloud our vision. We don’t see new possibilities because “We’ve always done it this way.”
And sometimes the busyness and noise of daily life can cloud our vision, that we don’t see God in our lives.
The message is clear. Get rid of all the beams that block our vision. Get rid of anger, jealousy and prejudice that block us from seeing the beauty and dignity of the people around us. And get rid of the beam of self-doubt that blocks us from seeing our own beauty and dignity as a child of God.
Did you ever look into a foggy mirror? It’s difficult to see ourselves clearly when the mirror is foggy. But once it is wiped clean… Ah, there we are.
When people bully us, make fun of us, or pick on us, it fogs up our mirror. When we say negative things about ourselves, it fogs up our mirror. That’s why it is important to wash that mirror clean with words from the bible.
For instance, in the First Letter of St. John, we read, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are”(1 John 3:1).
Jesus tells his disciples (and us), “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). And, “I no longer call you servants…I have called you friends.” (Cf. John 15:15)
Children of God…light of the world…friends of Jesus…
Here at Mass we hear words like this from the bible. These words open our eyes and help us see clearly the splendor of creation, and the beauty and dignity of each human life, including our own.
And here at Mass, as we remember Jesus’ death on the cross, we see more clearly the total and unconditional love of God for us.
In thanksgiving, we offer our gift, Jesus and ourselves, to the Father. And in return, the Father gifts us with Jesus, his body and blood, in Communion.
We see more clearly what it means to be called “children of God,” for so we are.