The readings for today really challenged me to do some uncomfortable self-reflection. The first few times I read the first reading, I felt indicted. A sense of accusation for my shortcomings and the need to ask for forgiveness. I explored the reading more and found that accusation was about a specific man in leadership there and sinful behavior. However, the rest of the people were being held accountable for not challenging his immoral behavior. I struggled, wanting to be fair and not judging yet recognizing that we will be expected to protest against behavior that is unacceptable. We are expected to defend the vulnerable and fight injustice. But . . . how do I find the balance between loving acceptance/forgiveness and appropriate “judgement?”
Recently, I heard a homily in which the priest mentioned the challenge of the “Our Father,” in that we ask that we are forgiven as we forgive others. In other words, we propose that we are to be judged in the same way we judge others. As he quipped, that could be a chancy deal, considering how we sometimes judge others. This is consistent with what I was discussed in an interview with a Christian song writer whose group sings, Jesus, Friend of sinners. He reflected on the fact that he (as so many of us) ask to be judged with mercy yet we look at others with far different eyes – mercy being far from the standard. We may see others as sinners who deserve their just reward yet ask for mercy for our sins and shortcomings. His bottom line was that we are all sinners to some extent and need to be glad that Jesus is a friend of sinners. Indeed, some challenging concepts that need to be reconciled.
The responsorial psalm provides us some insight as we ask, Lead me in your justice, Lord. It is clear that those who live the life expected, reflective of the Christ’s teachings will be rewarded and find joy in the name of God. The “wicked” will be dealt with accordingly.
The essence of the answer to my question posed is revealed in the gospel. Jesus helps us to separate the idea of following the law versus the intent as he challenges and chastises the Pharisees. Jesus in his wise way points out that it is always better to do good rather than evil – the intent of saving a life far outweighing the rule of not doing work. His clear vision of what is right to be done threatens the Pharisees as they scurry off to see what is to be “done with him.” We, too, are often threatened by the challenges and truths that Jesus offers us – and oftentimes, we, too, scurry off to avoid the scrutiny and our own reflections of who we are and what we need to do to change.
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