20/20 Vision

by Fr. Ambrose Criste, O.Praem.


“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?”

Of our five external senses, our power of sight is the noblest. It is the most immaterial of our five senses, the most spiritual of them, and it has such a high nobility that we even use this power of sight as a metaphor for our ability to know things. Someone might ask us, “Do you understand what I just said?” and we often respond, “Yes, I see that.” Or when we have some moment of intellectual insight, we say, “Oh, I see.” In fact, this analogy of seeing as a way of describing knowing goes so far that we even speak of our union with God in heaven one day, our knowledge of God in eternity, as the beatific vision, when we see God face-to-face.

In the section from the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord invites us to examine our relationship with our brothers in terms of this same lofty power of our seeing. In our community, we might reflect upon how we see our brothers here in the monastery, and what beams there might be in our own eyes that prevent us from coming to know them more completely, from being united with them more perfectly. We profess, according to our holy rule, a union of hearts and minds with these other men whom God has called to serve Him here. That union certainly begins with a knowledge of our brothers that we might describe as “how we see them.”

It’s very easy as we go about our lives together, day after day and year after year, to think that we have a man all figured out. We might have fallen victim to an unkind word or a simple disagreement or misunderstanding, and then, little by little, that grows into a beam in our eye that prevents us from seeing that confrere, really seeing him or knowing him—or loving him—ever again. Our Lord tells us, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

During the Super Oblata prayer, we ask the Lord to receive our sacrifice of praise, and that this sacrifice might cleanse us and give us hearts that are pleasing to Him. Hearts that are cleansed and pleasing to the Lord: We get these kinds of hearts (and the union of these hearts) from our sacrifice of praise. This, my brothers—our sacrifice of praise in the Mass and in the choir office—this is our remedy for our nearsightedness, that beam-in-the-eye sort of blindness that tends to obfuscate our real knowledge and authentic union with our confreres. Our Lord is the one who will clear our vision. All we have to do is come before Him in humility and admit that there’s a beam in our own eye, especially when it comes to that confrere whom we have the greatest difficulty in loving, or the greatest ease in judging harshly. We can take heart in the fact that each of us has come here eager to serve the Lord, and that same Lord is busy at work purifying the hearts and minds of our brothers.

There is a concrete way that we can check ourselves on how we see our brothers. This test comes not from our sense of sight, but rather from our sense of hearing—what we hear in our hearts and our thoughts when we look upon these men around us, what we hear in our private interior dialogue during these days of silence and prayer. That interior place is the perfect place to start noticing splinters and pulling out beams, so that the Lord may use our time together to bless our canonry with a greater union of hearts and minds in the spirit of our holy father St. Augustine. To that end, may this sacrifice of praise that we offer on the altar purify us, clear our vision, open our ears, and make us always eager to serve that same Lord, who is the source of our fraternal charity. Amen.

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