No sentence in this sentence – Monday, 12th week in ordinary time – Matthew 7:1-5
We continue with our study of the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. So far, Our Lord has been very demanding on the Christian disciple. Having given us identity to be the salt and the light of the world he now continues to elaborate on the behaviour of the Christian disciple.
The text of today’s teaching forms part of the third and final chapter of the three chapter ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ Ironically, even though the demands that Jesus makes of the disciples have been tough, no one seems to cop-out, on the contrary the chapter will end with us being told in 7:28 that the crowds were astounded by his teachings for he taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes.
Right away there is a lesson to learn here. While modern day preachers skirt around challenging teachings of Our Lord for fear that they may lose their congregations, Our Lord was not a people’s pleaser. He was not politically or socially correct; he was simply correct. Cardinals, Bishops and the religious in the Catholic Church need to understand that faith must not be compromised at any cost. Perhaps the empty pews are not the result of tough teaching but a result of compromised and unprepared communication of the faith by its leaders. Congregants do not come to Church to be entertained by their priests, they come to the Church to be strengthened in their weakness and to be challenged to do better.
In the Gospel of today, Our Lord asks us not to judge so that we too may not be judged. One might think that such a teaching is impossible. It would seem that ‘judging’ others is an inevitable part of our daily lives. So, let’s understand this text. Christ is not saying we can’t have an opinion, he says we should not judge. Opinions are important and even essential. They express what we feel towards a situation or a person’s actions. Opinions can change and they are subjective. Christ does not say you can’t have an opinion, he is asking us not pass sentence.
Judging another is when you close your heart and mind to any other opinions that may be. You decided that this is how it must be and seal the matter. There is a harshness in the approach to another person when we speak of judging them. When we do this, we leave no room for understanding or acceptance. Christ wants us to make room for understanding the other rather than shutting the door.
Even more, when we judge another, we inevitable usurp that prerogative which belongs to God alone. It is for this reason that Jesus says, “judge not and you will not be judged.” Does this negate the teaching that at the end of life we will be given a ‘get out of jail’ card because we never judged? No, it simply means that because we did not close the door of our hearts and minds to others, Christ will also evaluate our lives in the same measure of understanding. It is for this reason he says, “the measure you give (your judgment) will be the measure you get back” when you are judged.
It is in this context that Jesus asks us to be compassionate, for each of us have failings of our own. Most of the while, we do not see our own failings and may even stubbornly refuse to accept them. Jesus wants us to accept that each one of us have our own personal flaws and failings. The plank in our eye is what we need to remove first before we demand that the speck in our neighbour’s eye be tackled. Christ’s illustration of his point makes for a humorous picture; a man with a board in his eye trying to help a friend remove a speck from the friend’s eye. You can’t think of the picture without smiling and being amused by it.
At the heart of this teaching is an invitation to the Christian disciple to love more. While this teaching does not prohibit examining the lives of others, it certainly prohibits doing it in the spirit that is devoid of love. Jesus did not prohibit the judgment of others. He only requires that our judgment be completely fair, and that we only judge others by a standard we would also like to be judged by.
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