21 June 2010

A Wooden Beam with Red Flags

Several years ago we were coming home from Home Depot with some long pieces of wood to make our "compost corner" into a respectable two-bin system. The planks of wood were SO LONG that before we pulled out of the parking lot the nice man who worked in the lumber section had to staple some red baggies to the back of the wood which was sticking out of the pick-up truck. The planks were huge and -- just to make them more visible, they were now flapping red baggies like flags in the wind. This image paints a colorful comparison to the splinter -- also mentioned in today's Gospel -- which can often be so small most of us need a sterilized pin or tweezers to extract it.

How embarrassing to imagine our own faults as obvious and glaring as 8-foot 4x4's with bright red flags! Yet what a compelling call to examine our own imperfections and shortcomings before we look upon -- and dare to judge -- the actions of others. St. Francis de Sales had a great deal of counsel about why we should never judge a person's actions based solely upon what we see; he often reminded his correspondents that although we may observe an action with clarity, we bystanders lack the perspective provided by the mind and heart of the person carrying out the action -- for some things are known to God alone.

"If your affections are warm and tender, your judgment will not be harsh; if they are loving, your judgment will be the same ... And so ought we always to judge our neighbor as charitably as we can; and if his actions are many-sided, we should accept the best."
St. Francis de Sales

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