Monday, 12th Week in Ordinary Time
“Who am I to judge?” must rank as one of the best-known phrases of Pope Francis – and sometimes misquoted or taken out of context. It is often used (and sometimes abused or misused) perhaps because it touches a very sensitive issue. How can we ever judge the behavior of others?
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” This can sometimes degenerate into a passive, uncaring attitude. I will not judge you, for you are responsible for your own choices. Now do not expect me to help you in any way, for I am not responsible for you at all. Jesus is saying something quite different. The Lord is telling us to be careful not to judge others more harshly than we judge ourselves.
We can be quite blind to our own faults but be very alert to those of others. Human bias tends to favor ourselves and be prejudiced regarding others. It is easier to propose that the problem is not in me but out there with somebody else. The truth is more often that the other person is a challenge to me. Otherwise, why would I need to be critical? It can be challenging to admit the truth about myself.
The Lord is also telling us to be free of prejudice because it can cloud our judgment. “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Becoming obsessed with a small failing in another person can distract us from being aware of a much greater shortcoming in ourselves. We have to ask for light to be aware of our prejudices and for strength to remove them. We have to pray for an enlightened self-knowledge and a nonjudgmental attitude towards others. Most of all, we have to ask for compassion, both for ourselves and for those whose opinions and behavior we find difficult to accept.
How do we deal with our own experience of being judged harshly? The booklet Sacred Space 2018 has this commentary and reflection: “If I call to mind times when I have been judged unfairly, I ask God that I may do so with a sense of peace and calm, learning only how I might become more loving and more tolerant in my attitudes to others.”
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.”