“Stop judging …” How ironic that I read those words in today’s Gospel, just as I have collected a stack of essays to grade. Of course I have to read and judge these students’ understanding of the assigned material, and the quality of their written communication of their insights. Of course we all have to judge at times: we certainly want our health care professionals to judge our history and symptoms, to diagnose on the basis of their judgments, and to judge the effectiveness of their prescriptions and treatments. A parent must judge if a child is ready for a privilege or responsibility; a voter must judge which candidate will best serve in public office. We must judge amounts, times, material and moral worth. How can Jesus say, “Stop judging…”?
And of course I’m just playing with the words here. The real meaning of this Gospel passage is quite clear. Jesus is teaching us about mercy, forgiveness, generosity, and understanding. Our first reading from Daniel says we are sinners, we have done wrong, but God is merciful and forgiving. In the Psalm we sing of God’s mercy and forgiveness. And then in the Gospel from Luke, Jesus teaches that not only is God merciful to us, but we are to be merciful to others. “Forgive and you will be forgiven” – that’s what we need! “Give and gifts will be given to you” – that’s what we want! Our heart’s desire, our first and final longing – to receive and to give in turn – and in Christ Jesus.
Recently a student did not arrive for an appointment with me, and because it was inconvenient for me to keep the appointment myself, I felt angry and rushed to a cynical judgment that she was careless, indifferent, and lazy. I sent her a formal, even pompous, yes, even scolding email message. Meanwhile this lovely young lady had simply, stupidly but innocently, forgotten what I had told her about the location of my office (not in the same building as our classroom), and she had not found someone to ask about me in that hour. Later, as she apologized to me for her error, I appreciated mine: she had misjudged a building. I had misjudged a person.
So I need today’s readings. I need the promise of God’s mercy and forgiveness for myself and for others. I need to learn to both give and receive mercy, forgiveness, generosity, understanding, -- in short, LOVE. God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
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