Monday of the 12th week in Ordinary Time – Mt 7:1-5
Today’s Gospel continues with Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, and today’s reading gives us the well-known passage about the splinter and beam, a warning against hypocrisy.
We notice that in the Gospel, the whole point of having the wooden beam removed is so to be able to help remove the splinter in our brother’s eye. As Saint Basil comments on this, “self-knowledge, then, seems the most important of all. For not only the eye, looking at outward things, fails to exercise its sight upon itself, but our understanding also, though very quick in apprehending the sin of another, is slow to perceive its own defects.” Self-knowledge, the awareness of our own defects, is key since it is only once we set aright our souls and our criteria for judgment that we can hope to help other souls on the way of perfection. This reflection on our shortcomings and imperfections brings us to an awareness of God’s mercy in our lives, and leads to humility and ultimately to perfection. As the Imitation of Christ states: “A true understanding and humble estimate of oneself is the highest and most valuable of all lessons. To take no account of oneself, but always to think well and highly of others, is the highest wisdom and perfection. Should you see another person openly doing evil, or carrying out a wicked purpose, do not on that account consider yourself better than him, for you cannot tell how long you will remain in a state of grace. We are all frail; consider none more frail than yourself.”
Note that Kempis doesn’t say we shouldn’t instruct the sinner, or denounce objective moral evils; rather, even when we know what is right and wrong, that doesn’t automatically make us better or stronger people. We are weak, and, as Saint Claude de la Colombiere writes, we have in ourselves the seed of every vice; there’s not any vice that we are incapable of committing. It is only God’s grace that keeps us pure. In the Dialogues of Saint Catherine of Siena, Jesus told her, “You see this gentle loving Word born in a stable while Mary was on a journey, to show you pilgrims how you should be constantly born anew in the stable of self-knowledge, where by grace you will find me born in your soul.” We can ask ourselves: how much self-knowledge do we really have? Are we aware of our defects, our failings, our character weaknesses? What are we doing to work on them?
Let us pray, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Truth, for the grace to grow in self-knowledge and thus in our love of God.
 Cited in Aquinas, Catena Aurea.