Luke 6:39-45; 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is not possible to live in this world without making judgments. Judging is a function of the intellect as it determines whether or not an idea is compatible with another. Whenever we choose, we judge. A mother, for instance, leaves the house, goes to the grocery store, and decides among several options what to buy on the basis of needs and availability of funds. A grade 10 student will have to choose which track to take as he or she moves up to senior high school. We make judgments every day, significant ones or otherwise. Inevitably.
I believe that what the Lord cautions us against is not making judgments per se. I believe He is asking us not to be judgmental. We have to make judgments about things and issues so that we can move as required, but we avoid as much as possible being judgmental about people.
Two reasons immediately come to mind as to why being judgmental is untenable. The first leaps out of the words that Jesus uttered in the Gospel for today. He asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?” The Lord is clearly saying that we cannot be judgmental about people because our vision of the world is never 20/20. Our opinions about others are always affected by our own woundedness and colored by our biases.
There is a saying that goes, “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are”. The saying reminds us that our biases can dramatically alter our objectivity. It means our perception is, to a large extent, a description of ourselves. One time a Buddhist monk was approached by a rude man who said, “When I look at you, I see a pig!” The Buddhist monk replied, “When I look at you, I see the Buddha”. The man said, “How is that?” The monk replied, “What you see (outside) is what you are on the inside”.
The other reason why being judgmental is untenable springs from the very nature of the human person. A living human being is an unfinished project. While we are used to saying “human being”, we should get more comfortable with the expression “human becoming’. When we look at a person, we need to listen to the Lord saying, “I am not done with him/her, not yet”.
You must have heard already of the story about two Italian boys who were altar servers in their parish. Their names were Annibale della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni. In the year 1770, during a benediction, these two boys started quarreling, and the altercation escalated into a physical fight with Francesco hitting the head of Annibale with the candlestick. Seeing blood dripping from the head of Annibale, the parishioners were shocked, and the priest got so upset that the boys were driven out of the church for their misbehavior.
The story however did not end there. Fast forward to the year 1825, at the huge door of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, on the occasion of the opening of the Jubilee Year. Standing in full regalia was Pope Leo XII, and beside him the Cardinal who would succeed him four years later, and would be known as Pope Pius VIII. It would interest us to know that the baptismal name of the Pope then was Annibale della Genga and the Cardinal who would succeed him was Francesco Castiglione. Who would have thought that these two disorderly and mischievous altar boys who once disrupted a benediction would eventually become revered leaders of the universal Church?
The only Christian justification for judging others is shepherding. We judge because we desire that a fellow Christian realize his or her error and mend his or her ways. St. Paul said once that “the spiritual among you should correct a mistaken brother in a gentle spirit”. Echoing a similar message, St. James said, “If someone turns a sinner from the error of his ways, he will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins”.
If we must judge another, we need to look at the mirror first. We need to remember that if judgment has to be made for the purpose of correction in charity, our effectivity is directly proportional to our credibility. As Jesus would say, “Remove the log out of your own eye (first), and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s.”
[Photo credits: Google]