Jesus has a stern warning for those who condemn others while ignoring their own shortcomings. He bestows the title “hypocrite” on those who pass judgment on the faults of others while ignoring their own faults. The very word “hypocrite” translates as one who puts on a false appearance. Jesus could see clearly the pretentious religious arrogance of those who judged harshly the conduct or motives of others, while not owning up to their own moral faults.
As we pause and take stock of our own lives, we will soon discover that our shortcomings are plentiful. Our own conduct may not be completely free of hypocrisy and our decisions may not always be based on justice. We all have a propensity for judging others. We often judge quickly, mercilessly, and based on first impressions, without really knowing what’s going on or not going on inside those around us. We see only the externals; God alone sees the heart.
Today Jesus invites us to take a look at ourselves. Jesus himself admits that it is easy to see another’s faults. Our neighbor’s faults, however, should not distract us from a sincere examination of ourselves. We have our own splinters to deal with, too. At the end of the day, judging obtains little or nothing productive; rather, it is much more fruitful to spend our time rooting out our own defects instead. Removing a splinter of wood embedded in our finger is painful work, and the longer we wait the worse it gets. However, removing the splinters of defects from our own lives life brings about the happy result of a more profound self-understanding, as well as an increased empathy for others and acting in loving ways. With the Holy Spirit’s gift of right judgment, we can act without malice towards everyone and with charity for all.