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Stop judging

Gospel Commentary Lk 6:27-38


The Gospel this Sunday gives us one of the most popular lines of Scripture in the modern world: “Stop judging.” It has become commonplace in our daily living and culture. When we examine the common perception of this teaching, we find that it generally means something like: “Leave everyone alone, do not tell them how to live their lives, and always help them to do what they want to do.”


This does not much resemble the vision Jesus gives us. While the common understanding of “stop judging” asks very little of us, the way of life Jesus describes requires almost everything. Not only are we to refrain from judging our neighbors, but we are to give our best, that is — our love — to our very enemies. The teachings that precede and accompany “stop judging” demand not that we leave others alone, but precisely that we touch their lives with mercy. 


Jesus does not want to free us from one another, but rather to reconcile and save us together.


These demands can seem frightening and unjust at first. How can I forgive those who have truly done me wrong? If I forgive them, does that mean I look weak? Does that mean I have let someone off the hook, or that I’ll never find justice? Framed by these questions, forgiveness can seem nearly impossible. Though Jesus is certainly patient with us, and will continue to love us even before we find the strength to forgive, yet he does insist we do this most difficult thing.


So how do we find the necessary strength? 


The strength to forgive comes from two places.


First, we take strength from the fact that our mercy is an image of the Father’s mercy, who “himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” The Father already has forgiven us so much through baptism and confession, and even when we do not recognize or appreciate his goodness, he still provides opportunities to return to him. Our mercy to others is simply an act of thanksgiving for the mercy we have received.


Second, we take strength from the example of one who lived a life of mercy, Jesus himself. Jesus never calls us to do something that he himself will not do, and in his Passion, he gives us a portrait of this teaching in action. If anyone ever had the right to demand justice and refuse mercy, certainly it would be the Lord, who was betrayed and abandoned by his friends, and left open to exposure, false accusation, ridicule, torture, and murder. Yet, through his whole suffering, we hear him say, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” 


When he confronts the apostles who ran from his side and left him for dead, he does not accuse them or scream at them, but rather says, “Peace be with you.”


Jesus forgives not as a sign of weakness, but precisely as a sign of strength.  He is perfectly grounded in the Father’s love for him, and so he is not afraid to lose out by forgiving his betrayers and enemies. He knows in his human soul that the Father cares for him totally, and will vindicate him. The Father also loves us perfectly, and no matter how many injustices arise here, in time he will set every one of them right, rewarding and healing the good, while punishing the wicked. If we remain close to the Father, learning to trust in his unshakable love, we too can forgive as an act of charity, which is stronger than all sin and pain.


Fr. Rampino is parochial vicar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Alexandria.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019