Homilette for Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

(I Timothy 1:1-2.12-14; Luke 6:39-42)

Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the haunting tale of a scientist that marries an extraordinarily beautiful woman. The scientist notices one slight defect in his wife’s face – a birthmark on her cheek -- and desires to remove it through drug therapy. At first the woman dismisses the birthmark as charming not detracting, but for her husband’s sake she drinks the elixir he prescribes. The result is calamitous. Although the birthmark fades away, the lovely woman dies as well.

Hawthorne’s story illustrates Jesus’ admonition in the gospel today. The scientist makes a disastrous guide because a wooden beam -- belief in the power of science to remedy all ills –lodges in his eye blinding him to the fact that the birthmark is but a superficial blemish, a splinter.

We should take care not to suffer the same illusion as the scientist that material and scientific progress has made or indeed can make life nearly perfect. Yes, people today live longer than before and are less likely to suffer from back-breaking labor. Yet they still treat one another cruelly and sometimes end feeling desperate in an uncaring world. It is a far from perfect situation and indeed difficult to tell if the quality of human life is actually improving.