As the mother of four children and a school principal responsible for the Catholic education of over 400 students, I found several verses in today’s gospel that caused me anxiety. The verses about good fruit, in particular, had me worried.
That’s because I sometimes fall into a shallow thinking pattern. If the children I raise and guide are the fruit of my labors, and they do not turn out to be intelligent, respectful, kind, or holy, then I am clearly like the brambles. I have failed to prove myself as worthy or successful. It would be far easier for my ego and my inflated sense of pride if other people—namely my children, my students, and even the teachers in our building—just did all the right things that would make me look good.
But how fitting that Jesus’ parable about hypocrisy leads into these verses and illuminates the foolishness of such anxieties. If we fixate on the worthiness of others and the splinters in their eyes rather than on our own faithfulness and conversion, we are hypocrites who fall into a lifeless trap.
The more we look to judge or criticize others, especially as a means of inflating ourselves, the more we blind ourselves spiritually. To best fulfill my vocations as mother and educator, I must worry less about how others behave according to my standards and focus more on my prayer life, my own need for mercy, and my relationship with Christ.
Today’s gospel is a beautiful invitation to be honest with ourselves and our shortcomings and trust that the spiritual clarity that comes from such honesty will make us more fully like Christ, our ultimate teacher.