EIGHT SUNDAY OF YEAR C
1st Reading Sirach: 27:4-7; 2nd Reading 1 Cor. 15:54-58; Gospel Luke 6:39-45
THEME: DON’T JUDGE PEOPLE BEFORE YOU TRULY KNOW THEM
By: NOEL OGADIMMA ONYEULO
A 25 year old boy seeing out of the train window shouted, “Dad, look the trees are going behind!” His Dad smiled and a young couple sitting nearby, looked at the 25 year Old’s childish behaviour with pity. Suddenly, the boy exclaimed again, “Dad, look the clouds are running with us!” The couple sitting beside this time couldn’t resist and said to the old man… “Why don’t you take your son to a good doctor?” The old man smiled and said… “I did and we are just coming from the hospital, my son was blind from birth, he just got his eyes today.” Every single person on the planet has a story. Don’t judge people before you truly know them: The truth might surprise you!
Friends, how often do we judge people without truly knowing them? The story above encapsulates the message of today’s readings.
In the first reading, Sirach exhorts us to watch our speech because it is from our speech that our inner self is tested and often reveals. Ones we open our mouth we reveal ourselves. Therefore, Sirach admonishes us not to praise people before they speak, for this is the way people are tested. When we gossip, make hasty conclusions and rash judgments against people, we tell people a lot more about ourselves than those we are condemning. This emphasis on speech spurs us more to develop more our listening capacity and not allowing the inner noise of self-righteousness to distract us from knowing the true situation of events and things. This teaching is also relevant in a world lacking integrity of public relations like ours today. Our politicians betray us by speech making. For them, speeches and promises made during the campaign period have nothing to do with the time of office. It is also the case with some men of God whose lives are at variance with their speeches. This reading from the Jewish sage exhorts us to be men and women marked by the integrity of our speeches and actions.
In the second reading, St. Paul ends his discussion on the resurrection of the dead with the hymn of the victory of Christ over death. Paul reminds us that God will destroy death forever, and if we are to share in this victory and live forever with the Lord, then we must take all steps necessary to give our hearts and lips to what is good. Hence, Christ is so much interested in purity of heart and speech because they help to decide our final judgment.
In the Gospel from St. Luke, we meet Jesus in his own words challenging our careless and malicious judgment against one another. Last Sunday, Jesus told us not to judge or we would be judged as such. This is not a prohibition on admonishing others when they are committing sinful behaviour or a cover for immoral behaviours. What is being forbidden by Jesus is not judgment as such but negative, destructive judgment. The statements that follow the prohibition on judging indicate that it is an elaboration on the Golden rule- the idea that we should treat others the way we would love to be treated. What Jesus means is that God will judge us at the final and particular judgment. It is only a question of how we would love to be judged. In our right minds, we would love to be judged with mercy, compassion and forgiveness. This is the way Jesus wants us to treat others. In this context, Jesus does not want us to be uncompassionate, unforgiving and unmerciful towards others. He wants us to be like him. There are times when we are expected to give constructive, helpful criticism. But, we cannot pass judgment unless we have some vision and understanding. How can the blind, those without understanding, presume to give leadership to others who are blind? Jesus asks us. The result is inevitable: “Both will fall into the pit.” However, it is necessary that one should speak from genuine knowledge, accurate data and to the people who can do something about it. The same applies to everything else we like to pass judgment on. It is important to emphasize further that the Gospel is in no way saying we should not have opinions or that we should not express them or admonish others. What it is saying is that we must avoid having such a high awareness of the shortcomings of others that we lose the ability to see and accept our own shortcomings. This tells us that the real solution is for me to change. We ought to respond in a positive way rather than think negatively of the other or find fault in them. We personally must be in charge of my own life and stop trying to change others. We can recollect what Fr. Antony de Mello used to say, “When I change, my whole world changes”. And, not only that, when I change, other people are likely to change but, even if they do not, my attitude towards them will not be the same.
Finally, the disciple is not above the teacher. This is to say that our judgments should be like those of the merciful Jesus. The one who is fully qualified will be like the teacher: judging to save and help, not to knock down and destroy. If we are to avoid blindness we need to walk in the footsteps of people who can see and judge mercifully with love. This is precisely the challenge of today’s gospel for each one of us.