Monday of the 2nd Week in Lent
Daniel 9:4-10; Psalm 79; Luke 6:36-38
We’ve all gone through tests, exams and other forms of assessment in our lives. Though they come in different forms, one thing that they’re all aimed at is fairness in assessing a particular aspect of a person. However, it would be difficult if not impossible to find a person who has not had an experience of an unfair test, exam or other form of assessment. We somehow find that tests cannot fully judge who we are and what we can do, especially the ones we fail…but then we can be biased then. Segments of society seek to judge us. How do we judge in return?
Today’s Gospel has an oft quoted phrase – ‘do not judge or you will be judged yourself’. What does that mean? Is the Lord telling us not to judge at all? I don’t think so as judging is a key component in acting well – we can’t act well if we’re unable or unwilling to make judgements about anything at all. The key to understanding this is to see the general movement of the passage – the call to be compassionate as our Heavenly Father is. The context of this passage should also be taken as flowing from the beatitudes of Luke – to give us attitudes with which to lead a good Christlike life.
We’re thus told to judge carefully. To be judicious. The philosopher Immanuel Kant describes two types of judgement – one that is static and another that’s dynamic. The static form of judgement that is related with the Gospel is to see judgement as flowing from a source beyond the self, a source that is immovable and eternal. That source is God and from God flows mercy and compassion. Judgment in this form is judgement with love and compassion and is non-negotiable. We have to do it but it’s hard to do. The other form of judgement is dynamic and varies from person to person. It takes all our biases, thoughts and contexts into account and is highly dependent on the point of view of the person. Good judgment should flow from and acknowledge both but should ultimately lead towards love and compassion.
The problem with us as normal, fallible people is that we tend to let our dynamic judging selves take over. Our selfishness and biases are blinkers that cause us to forget God’s mercy and judge others unfairly or worse, hypocritically. We sometimes see only the worst of others, judging others only by their visible faults. The First Reading gives us a way out though – through humility and putting oneself at the mercy of God, recognising that only God can save and heal us. That was the experience of Daniel and the exiled Israelites as they could do nothing more. There was a reliance in the eternal mercy of God.
What can we do? We should seek to start and end our judgements from compassion, balancing our dynamic selves with God’s steadfast love. We do need to acknowledge the latter and realise that to act well, we need to know where we are coming from and how we relate with others. Jesuit educationists often speak of cura personalis – care for the person when dealing with students. We need to know our students well so that we can teach and assess their learning. Isn’t that what the Gospel is asking of us in our dealings with everyone? Awareness when we make judgements is important – especially that of the eternal, solid core of God’s love and mercy. With that in mind, we are able to adapt and judge others fairly and objectively. Only then would our assessments, tests and exams in real life be truly fair.
How are we making judgements in our lives now?