Begin in Your Own Heart
Today is Quinquagesima Sunday. Fifty days until Easter. According to the same ancient tradition, last week was Sexagesima Sunday, sixty days until Easter. And the Sunday before that Septuagesima Sunday, seventy days until Easter. It follows, that next Sunday is Quadragesima Sunday, forty days until Easter, the season of Lent, forty days of fast. The numbers are rounded and thus do not add up, but they are adequate. And so, once out of Epiphany and its season, the major celebration since Advent, we have our eyes set on the Resurrection, or, better, on the Passion, Death and Rising of the Lord, the most significant event in history.
Having your eyes fixed on time's peak event is very healthy. Healthy for its realistic entry into suffering, that through Christ's Passion and Death, we come to know the Rising of the Lord in victory over sin and death.
Otherwise, how cope with the human scene, a scene of world-wide misery of every kind. An unending parade of the tragic. Today. Live. In color.
How deal with it all except in relation to the Savior of the world, Who entered into suffering and made it redemptive, turned the evil of humankind into an encounter with mercy in His own flesh and blood.
To be sure, in the course of a year, we go through Christian history from its ancient roots in Advent through the Nativity and all the events of His life on to the Last Day and the final, closing Judgment. Not in a mere historical review of course, but a very real, if mystical, entry into these profound scenes.
And our relationship to the encounter is a great deal more than mere witness as onlookers. We are participants, for our sins are involved. We had a hand in the Passion. And still do. You may think yourself a mere passive viewer, but you are quite mistaken. Your very passive viewing is itself your response to divine events.
And as if a yearly encounter with the salvation story were not enough, we have it daily in the Eucharist. For we know the Mass is the Passion, Death and Rising of the Lord. Now, being put to death by sinners. "What you do to the least, you do to Me" (Mt. 25:40). Christ's Passion, Death and Rising is a transcendent event, surpassing time, in the world until it is all over. The last Mass well be offered when the last sin is done. Christ heals this miserable situation through His mercy, calls us to new life, to rise from the dead, to enter into glory.
In the face of such cosmic realities, it seems rather lame to speak of noting the splinter in your brother's eye rather than being aware of your own hampered vision. Is that to be taken as an answer to the world scene?
It seems so. For if the flaw in your brother is a problem with you, does that not indicate a critical view of your own flaws? For you cannot treat others any way except the way you treat yourself. If you can be savage in your comments on another, no one need doubt you are just as savage with your own heart, revealed in your speech. The beam in your own eye has never been removed in mercy nor the speck you see in your brother's eye.
We need to meet mercy if we are to do mercy to others. Anything less is sheer waste. The sinful heart that has accepted Christ's mercy approaches another in quite a different mode than does the one foreign to it.
Hence, the healing of the world does not begin in some far-off land that we must hasten to help, but in the geography of your own heart. There the sinner is washed in mercy and becomes thereby an instrument of mercy, not merely by his prayers, but in everything he does. For he is a vessel of grace. We cannot heal all the world's problems, but we begin with our own heart if our help is to amount to anything.
For our response is not limited to prayer for the afflicted. We practice justice, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, bury the dead. We forgive injury and do not resort to revenge, to reprisal, to contempt. In our world. Where we are.
It costs nothing and is worth more than anyone can tell. And it is this way the world is healed, with Christ dying daily everywhere and we with Him.
And since the healing process is so slow, as it always is, we need to look ahead to the triumph at the end when Christ, put to death in humankind how many times, rises in glorious mercy. Amen.
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