Good Zeal

Yellow pine

I was a little tired today, which means my mind was a little more prone to wander, including during Mass, so after hearing the Gospel reading from Matthew about the wooden beam and the splinter, my mind wandered off through a forest of trees, wondering from which sort of wood my wooden blinders were most likely to have been hewn. By the time the gold-plated chalices were being placed on the altar I had settled on yellow pine.

Yellow pine is familiar, ubiquitous even, to someone who grew up in the southland. Golden-hued planks of old-growth yellow pine framed the ancestral architecture of my childhood. I walked miles on pine floors, and more miles through piney woods, and attended family events at places with names like Pine Grove. Today, golden-hued planks hewn more than a hundred years ago form the floors of our main monastery building, Ottilia Hall. Thus, I concluded that the wooden beam in my eye must be yellow pine.

After Mass, a little chagrined over my wandering mind, I realized there is actually a kind of logic to a beam of yellow pine. Sometimes it is that which is most familiar that can form the greatest hindrance to our vision. We become accustomed to seeing things in a certain way, with certain blinders on that are so familiar we don’t even notice them. Like the wooden beam of the Gospel, we do not perceive it. Nor can we perceive beyond it with true vision.

As a child, pine wood was ubiquitous. It wasn’t anything particularly special. But today, reclaimed pine lumber is prized in the home industry. Similarly, perhaps in removing the beam from my eye I can not only see more clearly, but also can find something precious in the old plank itself. Perhaps that which blocked my vision can cast a new golden hue when I offer my blinders to God to be reclaimed and restored.

Postscript: The picture above was taken several years ago, just after the renovation of Ottilia Hall. We were so gratified to see these beautiful floors shine once again after having been covered with tile and carpet for many years.

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