The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 23, 2001 Issue
Fr. Ver Bust's Column:
"Explaining the Gospel"

Fr. Richard Ver Bust
Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Be mindful of your own shortcomings

Do not ask others to do something if you fail to meet expectations

February 25, Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

By Fr. Richard Ver Bust

Today we bring to an end the first part of Ordinary Time. We conclude with admonitions given by Jesus and collected by Luke. They serve as the principles by which disciples of Jesus should live. Luke brought them together to show the fellow members of his church community how they might achieve what Jesus was asking of them as disciples.

The words are addressed to those who are willing to listen and follow the advice. If they do not they are like the blind person and a blind teacher both of who fall into a pit. They must hear Jesus' words and live by them. Jesus' teaching will open their eyes so that they may truly see.

Jesus draws upon the experiences of those to whom he is speaking. These experiences are drawn from nature and what happens in the natural consequences of life. When we follow these teachings then we may become like our teacher. In the other synoptic gospels, especially Matthew, these admonitions probably would be pointing to the kind of teachers the scribes and pharisees were. But here Luke is probably pointing to leaders and members of his own church. They too must be mindful of the fact of how they lead and in turn members must see and understand what life their leaders must live.

In this situation, Luke is probably admonishing those who would lead but fail to realize their own shortcomings. Hence the saying about the splinter and plank. One must always be mindful of one's own shortcomings. It is hard to ask people to do something when we ourselves fail to live up to what is expected.

One author has pointed out how male orientated these teachings are. She points out that the teacher and disciple are men and certainly the brother must be. The writing reflects the society of Luke's time. Yet one can take this advice and apply it to women in the community as well. Some of the leaders of community, we find in Luke's Acts of the Apostles, were women. Paul's friends and those whom he depended upon when he established the church included women.

Jesus' warnings are strong and the use of the word "hypocrite" shows the seriousness of what is being taught. A hypocrite, even today, is a strong negative. It refers to the kind of person whose outward life does not conform to their inner attitudes. So Jesus suggests that those who are critical of others but do not change themselves are hypocrites. One should start to make changes in one's own life before giving advice to someone else.

Jesus then draws an example from nature to illustrate what he is saying. This technique is one that Jesus often followed. It made real what could have seemed abstract. He points to the fact that a rotten tree would hardly produce good fruit. The opposite is also true. Even more true is the fact that a particular tree produces what is expected of it. The application is then made. The example from nature suggests that this is the way with human beings as well. We expect good conduct from a good person. Likewise we would expect that a person filled with evil would hardly go around doing good. There is a relationship therefore between a person's attitude and heart and how they live. Jesus' words and Luke's thoughts still apply to each of us today. The life we live speaks volumes and as someone said preaches a loud sermon.

(Fr. Ver Bust holds the title of professor emeritus in religious studies at St. Norbert College, De Pere.)

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