Daily Office Readings – Gospel ( Luke 13:10-17 )
These past few weeks have seen a lot of protests concerning the persistent racism in this country. Those protesting have pointed out that the amount of racism hasn’t changed, but what has changed is that technology has helped to bring it to the light.
One of the posts on my Facebook feed recently was an article about three police officers who were fired after their patrol car camera recorded their discussions about wanting to kill black people in a coming civil war, and denigrating fellow officers who were black. After they were dismissed and the situation came to light, one of them said that he is “not a racist,” and “doesn’t normally speak like that,” but that he was just “feeding off of” the other officer.
This police officer jumped head first into self-justification, making the claim that essentially amounts to “but it wasn’t my fault, because __________________.” This captures the essence of what we all jump at when confronted with our own shortcomings.
After last week’s post, I decided to reread “Desert Wisdom” and ran across a saying from Abba John, the Little:
“We have abandoned a light burden, namely self-criticism, and taken up a heavy burden, namely self-justification.”Desert Wisdom, Sayings From the Desert Fathers, p 7
We attempt to diminish our own responsibility for the things we have done. We expect people to understand our situations because we have explained away our behavior as something caused by external forces and by things beyond our control.
This is that heavy burden. Because when we seek to justify ourselves we have to look at the truth of the situation and are confronted with the very real and stark truth that we screwed up. Our moral compass has decided to spin like a fan, when instead it should have been pointing diligently in the direction of the right, and the good.
When we choose to justify, we are required to ignore the truth. Every justification becomes another little lie, a lie of omission, that we pile upon our backs, to be dealt with on another day. And we don’t dare put down the pack to look at these things, because then we will need to confront them all over again. And the more we justify, the heavier the burden becomes, until at some point all of our actions and decisions in life are guided by these untruths we tell ourselves in order to feel better.
When the Jewish leaders called out Jesus for healing a woman on the Sabbath, he simply looked at them and called them hypocrites, because they too were used to working on the sabbath by taking their livestock to feed and to drink. To their credit, rather than giving him some sort of excuse as to why they did these things, they were “put to shame.” In other words, they realized their guilt.
Will we be caught? Will we be called out for the heavy burden we carry, or will we choose to pull them down off of our backs and examine them until we come to an understanding of our own shortcomings and wrestle with them until we have defeated them? More often than not, it takes being caught, or being called out, before we even realize the little lies we have been telling ourselves.
But once we have been made aware, once we have come to accept this criticism of our very selves, then we can move on, and the load we carry will truly be lighter.
Mike is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s a data analyst, programmer, and loves to cook. If he doesn’t have his face buried in a book or is staring blankly at a computer screen, you can find him on a motorcycle, enjoying the ride.
Mike holds a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary, and is a postulant for Holy Orders in the Episcopal Diocese of Arizona. He will attend Sewanee School of Theology for a year of Anglican Studies in the Fall of 2022.