Jesus knows human nature so well — he knows how easy it is for us to see the weaknesses and faults of other people — but how hard it is to see those same things in ourselves.  Each of us has a plank in our eyes which blinds us to our faults – while they are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with us – or worked in the same office. . .

Once there was a young monk who committed a serious fault.  Immediately, the older members of the community assembled to pass judgement on him.  However, they would not proceed until their abbot joined them. So they sent the message that they were waiting on him.

The abbot stopped work at his desk and took up an old basket which had many holes in it – filled it with sand, and left his office to meet up with the assembled monks — all the while leaving a trail of sand in his wake – which was leaking out of the holes in the basket.

The elders of the monastery came to meet him and asked him what the reason for the trail of sand was all about – after all, someone was going to have to sweep it up!

The abbot calmly and quietly said:  “my sins are running out behind me. Everywhere I go I leave a trail of faults after me –

only most of the time I don’t see them myself.  And yet today, you want me to sit in judgement on my brother. . .”

On hearing the story, the older monks felt ashamed of themselves.  They quickly pardoned their brother and life went on in the monastery.

Without realizing it, we can become professional fault-finders and critics.  But fault-finders and critics are not the ones who change the world. . .

Jesus tells us to take the beam out of our eye first – and then we can think about removing the splinter from our neighbor’s eye.  We must put our own house in order before daring to try to put someone else’s house in order.

If we neglect this — then we are judging others not to bring about good in their lives, but only to feed something within our own lives – like jealousy or pride.  There are few things that give as much satisfaction to the ego as pointing out the mistakes and faults of others!

But oh how anxious we are to correct others!  If only we could tell someone else their faults – life would be so much better for all of us!  When we think like this, we are thinking only of ourselves. But how we hate and dread being corrected ourselves!  We find it unbearable – especially if it is done by certain people in our lives.

An old sailor who had a pack-a-day smoking habit, took his pet parrot to the vet when it developed a persistent cough.   He was worried that the second-hand smoke had damaged the parrot’s health. He had the vet examine the bird and after a thorough check-up, the vet determined there was nothing wrong with the parrot —- it had merely been imitating the constant cough of its smoking master.

Pseudo-religion, which Jesus calls hypocrisy – is forever trying to make other people better.  True religion –which Jesus consistently calls us to — tries to make only oneself better. And perhaps in making oneself better – making those around them better.

Be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful.  Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.

What wonderful thoughts to carry with us into Lent!