2 Kings 17:5-8,13-15,18
The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them.
And yet through all the prophets and all the seers, the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, they were more stubborn than their ancestors had been who had no faith in the Lord their God. They despised his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them. They pursued emptiness, and themselves became empty through copying the nations round them although the Lord had ordered them not to act as they did. For this, the Lord was enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. There was none left but the tribe of Judah only.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.’
“Do not judge”
In today’s gospel, Jesus asks us not to “see the splinters” in the eyes of our fellow brothers and sisters without seeing the splinters in our own. Yet, in Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus also instructs us in the steps of brotherly correction.
I had often pondered on the two passages and wondered what the differences were.
The answer came to me one day when someone told me about one of the experiences of St Augustine. The latter was contemplating the mystery of the Holy Trinity, walking along a beach when he saw a boy repeatedly bringing water from the ocean to pour into a hole he had dug in the sand. It was then St Augustine realized that he was like the hole in the sand, and the Trinity was like the ocean; the hole was simply too small to contain the vastness of the ocean!
I help guide certain children in Catechism and there was this particularly difficult child. The child was extremely disruptive in class, often speaking out of turn and shouting as and when he liked. The educators (myself included) were irritated, frustrated that the child could not be “controlled”. Threats were issued to ban the child should he not “behave”. One day, however, we heard the story behind the child’s life which helped me understand the reasons behind the behavior. Suddenly, I no longer found the child’s behavior irritating. Instead, the other educators and myself found ourselves trying hard to help the child. We became cheerleaders, counsellors and more importantly, friends of the child.
Upon reflection, I realized that I had taken a position of “superiority” and judged the child. I had not approached the situation with an attitude of love. I lacked the perfect knowledge that God alone has, and therefore I am incapable of passing judgement on my fellow man as God could. Truly, as our Pope Francis famously said, “Who am I to judge?”
In Matthew 18:15-17, the approach is noticeably different. We do not condemn our brother for his actions. Instead, we approach our brother and correct him gently and if he does not accept the correction, we are to bring others to speak with him. It is only after these steps have failed that one is to move on.
Ultimately, what we are required to do is to correct with a heart of love, and not be the judge and juror of our brothers and sisters. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference!
(Today’s Oxygen by Paul Wee)
Prayer – Help us Father to correct our brothers and sisters with love. May we not be tempted to take a position of power and superiority and to let You guide our attitudes and actions.
Thanksgiving – Thank You Father for loving us and for showing us the way to build our community here on earth. We are grateful that we have the Holy Spirit as our guide!