For many of us, judging one another is almost as automatic as breathing. As we encounter someone we have instant internal judgments, we judge looks, clothes, actions, inactions, homes, cars, and material items. We judge our family, spouses, friends, colleagues, classmates, leaders, enemies, celebrities and those on the peripheries. Much of what gets our attention when we take the time to think about it is what Jesus is addressing in today’s Gospel, negative judgments.
Jesus said to his disciples: How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:4-5).
There are positive judgments that bring about effective change for the good. In a court case, our hope is that the judge is learned in the law and guides the lawyers and jury in ways of sound judgement such that justice with mercy is served. For us to do likewise in our everyday interactions with one another, Jesus shares that we need to remove the wooden beam from our eye first before we are able to remove the splinter in another.
Jesus is leading us to be transformed. We need to have a change of heart, one that is not hardened by negative judgments of others based on our biases and prejudices, but a heart softened, one that is lead by the mercy and love of Jesus. This does not mean that we accept any and all behaviors from ourselves and others. Jesus does not do this. Jesus accepts ALL people as we are and where we are, with mercy. He is willing to enter our chaos, to embrace any and ALL of us who will receive his healing embrace, and through his love Jesus accompanies and walks with us, leading us from our slavery of sin to that which is True, Good, and Beautiful.
We participate with Jesus in doing the same as we allow him to heal us from our own limitations of self centered perceptions, from our anxieties, fears, and prejudices, and so come to see others as God sees them, as human beings endowed with dignity, because ALL people have been created in the image and likeness of God. We participate in building the kingdom of heaven when we allow God to love others through us, to bestow his mercy on others through us. We participate in Jesus’ work of redemption when our judgments toward ourselves and others are not condemnations but convictions that help to empower, build and lift up our brothers and sisters. We participate in taking the log out of our own eye and assisting to remove the splinter in another’s eye when we resist imposing on another and leaving them alone to bear the weight and burden of our judgment, and instead are willing to take another by the hand and accompany them, to be yoked with them, to journey side by side together, helping each other to be transformed into who God is calling us to be.
May we lay down our gavels of judgment, bias, and prejudice today, and instead, with an open heart on fire with the love and mercy of the Holy Spirit, offer our hands to one another, and together with Jesus, hand in hand, arm in arm, be about building the kingdom of God together.
Photo: One of the altar server teams of one hundred altar servers I was blessed to train and serve with at Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx, NY, around 1991.
Link for the Mass readings for Monday, June 25, 2018: