18"For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' 19"The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' [Matthew 11; 18-19]
11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’
[Luke 18; 11 - 13]
40Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" 41Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, 'We see,' your sin remains. [John 9; 40 – 41]
I introduce this reflection with those three passages because my life has been covered with the thoughts expressed there. These have been brought to the forefront of my heart and mind ever since I have begun to prepare for a series of presentations on the Gospel of St. Matthew. It seems that since then, every time I go to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Sacred Scripture has something that makes me think of every day life and how we live it.
It seems that in about every moment of our lives we have an opportunity to act righteously or to defy the advice of Jesus. It seems that we are surrounded not only by our own desires and passions but by those of others too. We go through life learning how to “see” life through the actions of those around us as compared to the behavior that makes us comfortable. All three of the characterizations above are so factually correct that we cannot escape identifying with them. Jesus did not have to look far to put examples of human nature before our very eyes. Who of us has not ridiculed, at least in the secret of our own mind, the street preacher? Who of us has not wondered how come our parish priest could be so loose at a wedding or a baptismal party? How many of us have made up our minds about the state of the soul of our elected officials? We just know that we are righteous and correct and what we see around us in other is so corrupt.
The words of Jesus warn us that we have to bring our conscience up to a higher level in order to be truly virtuous. The words of Jesus warn us that the true measure of our righteousness has to be Him, not other humans, not even our selves, but Him. Our faith tells us that the urging of Jesus to make ourselves ever closer to perfection in order to get to Eternal Life is a non-negotiable imperative. Our faith tells us that the only measure of perfection is God Himself, present to us in His Incarnate Son, Jesus. Our faith tells us that the only target that can serve as a guide for our quest to perfection is Jesus. Every time we compare ourselves to others, we err. Every time we compare ourselves to the person in the mirror, we err. Every time we create an image of what reality we want to be our norm, we err.
The only way to not be wrong is to keep our eye on Jesus, the true light of perfection. We must keep our eye on Jesus for He is the only Norm against which we are called to be measured. That Norm includes the command to “pick up our cross daily and follow Him.” [Luke 9; 23] We can do that, can’t we? We can. Keep our eyes open and on Him and carry our cross at the same time? If we can’t, we’d better learn because if we don’t the alternative is not very pretty.