To be effective teachers of the faith, Catholics must be cognizant of their own sins and shortcomings when giving correction and guide to others, Pope Francis said Sunday.
“So many times, we all know, it is easier or more convenient to discern and condemn the defects and sins of others, without being able to see our own with just as much clarity,” the pope said before the Angelus March 3.
People want to hide their own defects and even themselves, he said. “The temptation is to be indulgent with one's self … and hard with others.”
This teaching is illustrated in Scripture, Francis said, when Jesus says: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye?’”
He explained that it is good to give counsel to a neighbor, but to do so while imagining one’s self to be faultless is wrong.
“If I believe I do not have [defects], I cannot condemn or correct others,” the pope said. “We all have flaws: everyone.” To correct others with credibility, and “with humility, witnessing to charity,” requires looking inside one’s self and acknowledging personal sin and failure.
The line about the splinter and the beam, and others from the day’s Gospel, are short parables Jesus tells in order to teach his followers “not to be presumptuous and hypocritical,” Pope Francis said.
Further illustrating the point, Jesus asks his disciples: “Can a blind person guide a blind person?”
The pope explained that “Jesus wants to point out to his disciples the way to go in order to live wisely. He wants to underline that a guide cannot be blind, but must see well, that is, he must possess wisdom, to guide wisely, otherwise he risks causing damage to people who rely on him.”
This is especially true, he continued, for those who have educational and leadership responsibilities, like priests, politicians, teachers, and parents. These people need the gift of wisdom in order to be good guides and to discern “the right path on which to lead people,” he said.
Like the parable which says good fruit comes from good trees and bad fruit from bad trees, the pope urged people to examine the “fruit” of their own words and actions.
“Let us think a little bit about this teaching of Jesus and ask ourselves the question: do I speak badly about others?... Is it easier for me to see the faults of others than mine? And we try to correct ourselves at least a little: it will do us all good,” he said.
Francis concluded by invoking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary for help “to follow the Lord on this.”