Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you".
It takes time to have a good insight about oneself; frankly it isn't easy to know oneself well unless you rub shoulders constantly with others. I suppose families are the great levellers, there is often no mercy shown in clashes between the various members of any family. We all know the difficulties Jesus refers to when he says: "a prophet is not without honour except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his own household". (Mk 6:4) That's only one of a number of hints that all was not well between Jesus' kith and kin and himself!
Writing on a personal level, coming from a large family I have had my share of showdowns (and given as good as I've got too!) But I have had to examine my conscience a little more over these clashes as I am still frequently told; 'you should know better, after all you are a priest!'. But that annoys me, it's not only the priest who should know better but any Christian, for that surely is our starting point, in baptism we are all incorporated into the Body of Christ, each of us connected to the other, ministry being a distinction of service 'done unto others' not of rank and privilege (at least that's the ideal!).
My own temperament is not an easy one to hold together, for (and I jokingly refer it to my continental side) despite being brought up with values of tolerance, fairness, justice and attention to truth, I have that adrenalin rush of temper and can be horribly blunt when faced with something I disagree with! So the passage in Luke 6 about loving enemies and everything that goes with it, turning the other cheek, giving and lending without any expectation of thanks or return, fills me with a certain dread, I have to ask myself, 'How on earth can I manage that?'
Is Jesus being fair on us here? Somewhere in the storehouse of my acerbic sense of humour that ditty by Charles Bowen suddenly comes to mind:
"The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella;
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella."
It's just all so unfair, for turning the other cheek, giving without hope of any reward, doing all those things Jesus asks, well, expects of us, it doesn't alter or change the selfish 'other'! Evil is still done, rudeness, nastiness, cruelty, selfishness are still with us! Greed and power still compel people to do the most appalling things, even alas, in the Church! But here we come up against the brick wall of Christ. 'No excuse' he seems to say 'will change my directions for you, because you are capable of greater things'. At least that's the voice I hear him say to me. Beating a pattern in my thoughts is that insistent chant 'expect nothing back, expect nothing back!' But alongside it a new song is emerging, that of the Jesus Prayer, which after all is where Christ takes us next, 'Lord Jesus', we pray, ' Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner".
Suddenly my horizon is fixed on myself as the sinner, the greedy one, the unjust, I am no better, but I should be and that is where the Lord leads us. Yes the rain falls on the just whose umbrella has been taken, but its only rain, not ruin! How can I bring God's merciful love into this world unless I stop judging and condemning others, but forgive from my heart?
Sayings from the Desert Fathers and Mothers
"A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge".
"If we are on the watch to see our own faults, we shall not see those of our neighbour…To die to one's neighbour is this: To bear your own faults and not to pay attention to anyone else wondering whether they are good or bad. Do no harm to anyone, do not think anything bad in your heart towards anyone, do not scorn the man who does evil…Do not rail against anyone, but rather say, 'God knows each one.' Do not agree with him who slanders, do not rejoice at his slander, and do not hate him who slanders his neighbour".
If I prayed to God
that all men should approve of my conduct,
I should find myself endlessly penitent
before each man's door.
I shall not ask this;
I shall pray instead
that my heart might be pure toward all.
Fr Robin Gibbons is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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