13 September, Friday – Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes

Sep 13 – Memorial for St. John Chrysostom, Bishop and Doctor

John’s (347-407) father died when he was young, and he was raised by a very pious mother. It was for his sermons that John earned the title “Chrysostom” (golden-mouthed). They were always on point, they explained the scriptures with clarity, and they sometimes went on for hours.

As bishop, he criticised the rich for not sharing their wealth, fought to reform the clergy, prevented the sale of ecclesiastical offices, called for fidelity in marriage, and encouraged practices of justice and charity. St. John’s sermons caused nobles and bishops to work to remove him from his diocese; twice exiled from his diocese. He was proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 451.

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1 Timothy 1:1-2,12-14

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus appointed by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

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Luke 6:39-42

Jesus told a parable to the disciples: ‘Can one blind man guide another? Surely both will fall into a pit? The disciple is not superior to his teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.’

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Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly

Very recently, we had a new member join our community. She recently had her own conversion experience and was filled with enthusiasm and eagerness. She wants so much to be in a community to keep her faith strong. And she is so grateful to now be a full-fledged member, despite our very demanding schedule. I love watching her worship. Full of joy, it comes from the heart and it shows. She is like a breath of fresh air – only that the way she dresses doesn’t quite conform to our standard code of dressing. She is a beautiful woman and dresses very fashionably. Very alluring. Our leaders were quick to point this out and I was tasked to gently advise her to be less ‘distracting’; especially when we are ministering. Before I knew more about her, I was wondering what job she held that allowed her to dress this way.  Don’t get me wrong, her dressing is by no means risqué nor lewd. It’s just that in our Christian community, we all tend to be a little prim. In any case, I found out that she held a senior teaching profession in the medical industry.

Quite recently, Archbishop William also published a reflection called ‘Studs and Tattoos’ about superficial judgements on people. What matters most is not what they wear or look like, but what their heart is like. We should never judge a book by its cover.

We are all, at some point or other, guilty of judging people. I too had my own fair share of ‘lessons’. I am plagued by my own prejudices and judgements of people – especially when they don’t match up to my expectations. It may be how they perform a task, how they react to things, how quickly they respond to requests, or why someone doesn’t help someone else in need when they are perfectly able to. ‘Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.’.  Harper Lee in ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ said ‘you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.’   We never know the story or the circumstance that led the person to behave the way they did.

Jesus doesn’t fault us for having failings. But he invites me to look to my own blind spots first. If the just person falls seven times, how often do I fall?

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, make me more aware of my inadequacies, so that I may become gentle in dealing with others.

Thanksgiving: God thank you for seeing each of us from the inside. Thank you for seeing us with a generous and compassionate gaze. Thank you for not despising or condemning us for our shortcomings and failings. Lord, today make us gaze at annoying people as kindly as you do.

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