7th Sunday of Ordinary time ~ 20 February 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: I Samuel 26: 2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23; Responsorial: Psalm 103; II: I Corinthians 15: 27-38; Gospel: Luke 6: 27- 38
It might be said by some that our Scripture readings this Sunday are incredible. While faith and trust in God’s Word may be professed the acceptance and obedience or the following of the examples shared would be deemed by many as… incredible, that is lacking credibility.
Our first reading from the book of I Samuel describes an event in the life of young David as he is being pursued by King Saul who has clear intent to kill David as a threat to his throne. Providence has intervened and David with one of his faithful advisors and soldiers, Abishai are standing next to a sleeping King Saul with Saul’s spear at hand. The opportunity is strong to end the ruthless pursuit by the insanely jealous Saul. David, although anointed king refuses to commit regicide as he recognizes the anointing upon Saul as sacred.
The responsorial psalm, Psalm 103, is perhaps the most beautiful and powerful proclamations of the mercy, forgiveness, and love God has for His children, a love that separates our sins from us, as far as the east is from the west. This holy glimpse into the spiritual geography of the Kingdom of God would conquer our fallen humanity, our guilt, and our propensity to judge.
The second Bible reading, from the epistle of I Corinthians, teaches us that the cosmic collapse of Adam and Eve into the cruel realities of sin and guilt is a timeless reality. The letter then proceeds to teach us of an even greater reality that in Christ we are able to bear the heavenly image of Christ our Savior.
And in our Gospel reading from Luke, we continue to receive, from Jesus, and his the Sermon on the Plain. Jesus shares some of the most seemingly incredible statements, principles, holy standards that are given to His disciples, then and now. Jesus commands: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” And as if these words were not clear or plain enough our Lord commands us: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Christ continues to teach, and speak with eternal clarity of this command to love. But then he intensifies the message even more. After stating we must show the same mercy as God the Father shows us we are then to: “Stop judging…stop condemning, forgive…“. Many in the time of Jesus were incredulous of Christ and these words that were deemed absurd.
Time has not changed for many souls. In a world infused and drenched with greed, violence, and hate, in a world where Jesus said that His disciples are to be known by the love they have for God, one another, and by their love for their neighbors we see something else. The world sees Christians squabbling over their faith, their worship, their liturgy. The world sees and hears regular judgment of those outside of the faith and among those within the church. But if we were to see our Lord we would see Jesus weep.
The Bible indeed has much to say about judging others. There are clear circumstances, taught in the New Testament, and by our Lord where judgment, or discernment is a necessity. But those circumstances and the principles in which they are to be shared are specific and limited in scope and authority. But the command to not judge is far broader and embracing. Yet many would say that IF we really love someone then we must “judge their sin” and not the person. Indeed we may well need to share that certain pathways, or actions are destructive and contrary to the designs and will of God. But to condemn or judge another as unworthy of Christ or unworthy of His mercy and love is to take actions and exercise faculties for which we do not have. For if we are honest before God and each other we do not understand or know what is in the heart of another (or even ourselves). I think of the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta. She shared the compassion and mercy, the love of God with anyone in need in places and times and with souls who were not apparently faithful Christians (as judged by some. During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, St. Teresa’s order opened some of the very first residences in San Francisco and elsewhere to provide care for those dying of AIDs. Those needing care, needing love in their last days and hours had often been judged and rejected by family and churches. Solace, care, comfort were given and souls found the timeless message of God’s mercy.
Jesus would not be instructing us to ignore the cruel realities of sin and evil. He simply calls us to the holy love that looks past the wounds and dirt of this world to see each other as He sees us. He calls us to love with the healing hope and mercy of God and care for the soul left by the side of life’s road.
We may see someone whom we know is struggling with sin, with life and we may see them at church. Great may be the temptation to judge them as failed, lesser Christians, unworthy of true reverence for God and especially holy communion. Their sin, their struggles may be grossly real. But before we judge we would do well to pray for them, to ask God to heal them of whatever lack of love would lead them to seek something else to fill their void, to deaden the pain of their wounds. This could lead the Body of Christ to truly be a place of redeeming holiness and love that sets souls free. These graces would apply no matter the depth of sin, scandal, or despair. But we must be ready to be that friend that will show them that love God would share with them and for which we should be praying. The Scriptures for this Sunday challenge us in our faith communities, our families, and in our hearts. The light of the Word who is Jesus might well be asking us, as we encounter these decisions, how qualified, how wise am I, are any of us, to judge… love? Perhaps if we chose to love as Christ loves us, instead of judging, then the world would start to truly know we are Christians by the love we have one for another. Our faith, our love then would be much more credible.