The above aphorism which is attributed to the English poet George Herbert has become so well known that it is often shortened as ‘people who live in glass houses!’
It points to the human vice of judgementalism; that haste to accuse others of the very things which mark us as well, like ‘the pot calling the kettle black’.
Those who used “Maxwell’s Elementary Grammar”, in their early education may remember with some nostalgia, the poem of the pot and the kettle.
“You are dirty and ugly and black! Sure no one would think you were metal, except when you’re given a crack.” said the pot to the kettle. “’Tis your own dirty image you see; for I am so clean -without blemish or blot- that your blackness is mirrored in me” answered the kettle. If you find these verses amusing, it is because you like poetry.
In real life, they are awful and they question the moral authority of who has the right to accuse the other!
In our Sunday liturgy with the following readings: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11, we hear how Jesus dealt with such a situation when the
Pharisees and the Scribes tested him once again.
The rock-wielding elders brought to Jesus a sinful lady whom they had allegedly caught in adultery. (Alone! Though the act takes two?)
Since they knew that Jesus insisted on forgiveness in his teaching, they wanted to see if he would go against the Law of Moses, according to which the lady had to be stoned to death.
As the greatest teacher the world has ever known, Jesus responded with a very stunning answer, simply asking the sinless among them to throw the first stone.
By these words Jesus was inviting them to contemplate their own sin. Next he wrote some apparently embarrassing information in the dirt, which averted the execution, since whoever read the inscription was ashamed of himself.
And dropping the stones one after the other, they all went away sad beginning with the oldest; perhaps because he had lived long enough to commit more sins.
Through our Sunday liturgy, the church teaches us a number of important lessons especially in this Lenten period: First there is that tendency of going for the straw in one’s brother’s eye without paying attention to the log that is in one’s eye. (Matt. 7:3)
It is so common in all cultures. While the Arabs speak of the camel which cannot see the crookedness of its own neck, the Vietnamese speak of the dog which ridicules the cat for being hairy!
The second and most obvious lesson is about human sinfulness and God’s gift of forgiveness. Standing alone in front of Jesus made the sinful woman tremble in fear of what was going to follow.
When Jesus raised his head, he noticed that the mob had cleared off leaving behind a heap of stones. Jesus forgives the sinner: “Nor do I condemn you,” he told the woman with a request for conversion, “Go and sin no more.”
The third lesson concerns the sacrament of marriage which is facing so many challenges today. In our modern times a number of marriages end up in a divorce circle; many couples discover that they are incompatible shortly after their union.
The reasons given may vary; some are simple, others seemingly unrelated and others may include very serious misbehaviour like the case of adultery pointed out in our Gospel reading.
This in a special way, is known to inflict serious wounds on the relation of the married people.
In all our weakness as mentioned above, Jesus is ready to forgive us. But he asks us to contemplate our own sin and mind the log in our eye before going for the straw in our brother’s eye.
We are ‘the people who live in glass houses!’ And in a special way during this Lenten period the church continues to warn us not to play the pot in ‘calling the kettle black’.