“Who Am I to Judge”
Last week’s Gospel and this Sunday’s are a contrast to the image of Jesus the Gentle Shepherd. It’s a “sit up and take notice” alert. It seems Jesus is saying: look I’ve coddled you – cured you’re sick, healed the lame, gave sight to the blind, cast out demons. But, there is another side to the story. Yes, God is the Good Shepherd putting the strayed lamb over His shoulder. (I don’t mean any irreverence when I say this) Now, before I put you down, I am giving you a “slap on the rump.” Now, I am giving you a “slap on the bottom.” You are accountable for your own actions!
(Paraphrased by SRB) I trust you have learned the lessons of “Giving Second Chances.” Now, let me remind you of our personal responsibility to use your free will to exert the presence of GOODNESS and FORGIVENESS in our world. The kind of seeds that put down roots of PEACE and CONCORD between peoples and nations … starting in your own community.
Jesus’ parables have been presenting mounting evidence of the strength of the bonds – positive and negative – that we hold over each other. Follow the strands through Matthew’s Gospels over the past few Sundays. “Forgive and it will be forgiven you. Whatever you bind – or whoever you bind – shall be bound in heaven. I had pity on you – should you not have pity on your brother, your sister, your spouse, your children, your comrades? Whoever you loose, shall be loosed in heaven. Whoever shall lose her life, her reputation for my sake will be saved. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you. Stop thinking as human beings do; think as God does.” Recall the line (last week) from Ezekiel: “If you not speak out against evil, I will hold you responsible.” Jesus means real evil here – not nit-picking. Not making people accountable for the preferences I hold dear. Not asking curiosity questions that imply guilt or cause another to question “What’d I do wrong?” Making poor choices is different from doing wrong. A poor choice may cause you personal trouble, extra steps or time. But it can be a lesson learned. WRONG is a violation of God’s law, not one I wrote.
Asking “what critters or plants did you see on your walk today?” sits much more gently than “So, did you get any exercise today?” “I like that shirt” may satisfy your curiosity about: “Did you take a shower when you came home today?” The former conveys a compliment; the latter is an invasion of privacy and out of place.
What does Jesus say? And, we heard it in Benedict’s Rule last evening … “Beware the plank in your own eye.” Resolve to make TRUST your byword, your covenantal promise to each other. Promise yourself – and promise each other – that you will not be the one who initiates a cycle of rumors, gossip or suspicion; cattiness, negativity or any flavor of mistrust.
In the words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians (part of which was read at today’s Noon Prayer): The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. … Let us never be boastful or challenging or jealous toward one another. Help carry one another’s burdens; in that way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:25-26)
In the words of Pope Francis: “God is in every person’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.” (World Youth Day 2014) Remember Pope Francis’ often quoted words to reporters who were with him on a return flight to Rome from South America. He had was being asked his opinion about clergy sex scandals. He said simply: “Who am I to judge.”
Have a pleasant week … prayerfully remember those who are suffering on the West U.S. coast from the fires and poor air quality; places getting an over-abundance of rain causing flooding, recovering from tropical winds and stormy conditions … and so many other hardships … When all else fails, prayer fervently!
~Reflection by Sister Roberta Bailey, OSB