Judged Just Like That
I’ve been listening to a series on Ignatian spiritual exercises and as a result, have been looking at the daily scripture readings in a different light. As I try to put myself in the midst of what’s happening, and then just let the words speak to me, I seem to find my way to some new takes on both the readings and this life I’m living.
Today, the gospel reading was Matt. 7:1-5 – a short reading which begins with Jesus saying, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”
Jesus goes on to talk about removing the beam from one’s own eye before worrying about the splinter in someone else’s eye. My initial reflection centered on this: Jesus reminds me again to step outside of myself. He reminds me that as I have vowed my life in service to others, I can do it will only if my own spiritual house is in order. This I must work at daily, putting my soul in order as Jesus taught…by praying and fasting and giving in secret, not because the world sees; and yet shining with His light so that the world can see.
So back to judging. This morning’s homily, quite naturally, was about our tendency to make judgments about other people, but as I pondered the words of Jesus, something new began to form itself for me. It centered on His words: “For as you judge, you will be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”
Naturally, I began thinking about my relationship with my oldest daughter, which for more than five years now has been a relationship of complete estrangement. I’ve struggled with that from many angles. While I have forgiven her for her actions, I have decided that I cannot and will not engage with her; the pattern of our past tells me that to do so will only result in her repeating past damaging behavior which would harm me and those around me. I pray for her daily, because I love her and long for her to be healed. And for a long time now, I’ve gotten stuck right there, because I could not quite reconcile Jesus’ admonition to forgive an unlimited number of times with my unwillingness to let her wrong me again.
And so this morning, the words of Jesus rang in my head: “For as you judge, so will you be judged.” I had to consider whether and how I was judging my daughter, and I had to consider whether I would want to be judged in the same way.
Was I judging her as a hopeless case, meriting no further effort on my part? Is that what it means when I choose not to engage with her? And did that mean that I could expect God to judge me, in my sinfulness, in the same way, setting me aside as deserving no further grace, unworthy of His attention, falling short of repentance and lacking in atonement?
As I meditated on Jesus’ words, something led me to see this in a different way. It became obvious to me that I did not judge her as hopelessly lost. If I did, I would not pray daily for her healing. To judge her so would be to deny God’s own all-powerful, all-merciful love for us – for her as well as for me.
It occurred to me that I do, indeed judge her. I judge her as needful of God’s love, as needful of His healing power, as needful of His grace. And I want her – desperately and deeply want her – to have those things.
I see her as greatly needing that love and mercy, as needing to be open to it and to the grace that follows faith. If there is judgment here, it is the judgment that she needs God. In praying daily that God will heal her, I also pray that she will come to know Him, and it is impossible to pray in this way without faith and hope and love.
So as I judge her in need of God’s love and mercy and grace and healing, I see that God will then judge me as being in need of His love, mercy, grace, and healing.
And I can live with that.