Judging Others vs Showing Compassion
“… her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”
For almost two years Peter and Susan traveled together through the terrifying wilderness of serious illness.
Susan had just returned home from playing tennis when she suddenly dropped to the kitchen floor. She was rushed to the emergency room of the local hospital, where she was stabilized. As her husband Peter and their children Jacob and Rachel watched helplessly, Susan was put on life support before being airlifted to a university hospital. Susan had suffered a brain aneurysm.
It was the beginning of an 18-month odyssey for Susan and Peter and their family that including three brain surgeries, devastating setbacks, frustrating rehab, erratic mood swings — and waiting – and struggling to pray.
Happily, after 18 months, Susan was home. Over time her memory that was erased returned, as well as her bright and enthusiastic personality. The extent of her recovery surprised many on her medical team who knew the steep odds she faced.
Peter writes of his family’s journey:
“On many mornings during her 18-month recovery, Susan and I found ourselves waking to the same curious ritual. I turned from my pillow to hers and said almost instinctively, ‘I can’t believe you are alive,’ to which she responded by glancing over from her pillow to mine, whispering, ‘I can’t believe it either.’ Then we arose from bed and went about our day, trying to live as gratefully as possible, treating life as a gift to be shared.”
In today’s gospel from St. Luke, we hear about Jesus’ encounter with the woman who was a sinner. In the short parable which Jesus relates to regarding the two debtors, He teaches us three things — His own divinity and His power to forgive sins; the merit the woman’s love deserves; and the discourtesy implied in Simeon’s neglecting to receive Jesus in the conventional way. Our Lord was not interested in these social niceties as such but in the affection which they expressed; that was why he felt hurt at Simeon the Pharisee’s neglect.
Jesus notices the omission of the expression of human courtesy and refinement which Simeon the Pharisee failed to show him. Christ is the perfect God, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, and perfect man. He comes to save, not to destroy nature. It’s from Him that we learn that it is unchristian to treat our fellow men badly, for they are creatures of God, made in his image and likeness.
Moreover, the Pharisee was wrong to think badly of this sinner and of Jesus: reckoning that Christ did not know anything about her, he complained inwardly. Our Lord, who could read the secret thoughts of men (which reveals His divinity) intervened to point out to him his mistake. True righteousness, says St Gregory the Great, is compassionate; whereas self-righteousness is false and indignant. There are many people like this Pharisee: forgetting that they themselves were or are poor sinners, when they see other people’s sin they immediately become indignant, instead of taking pity on them, or else they rush to judge them or sneer at them. They forget what St Paul says in (1 Cor 10:12): “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall”; and again in (Gal 6:1-2): “Brethren,, if any man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness […]. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ”
We should strive to have charity govern all our judgments. Otherwise, we will easily be unjust towards others. Let us be slow to judge. Each of us sees things from our own point of view, as our mind, with all its limitations, tells us, and through our eyes that are often dimmed and clouded by passion. … Of what little worth are the judgments of us humans! Don’t judge without first sifting your judgment in prayer.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, charity and humility will allow us to see in the sins of others our own weak and helpless position, and will help our hearts go out to the sorrow of every sinner who repents, for we too would fall into sins as serious or more serious.
With reference to my opening story, sometimes, only when we come perilously close to losing someone we love do we understand how important they are to us; only when we manage to survive a devastating illness or catastrophic loss do we realize how blessed we are. Jesus points to that reality in His exchange with Simon the Pharisee in today’s Gospel.
In God and only in God, we realize how loved we are and how capable we are of loving; in God, we experience forgiveness and hope that enable us to start over and restore what has been broken; in God and only in God, we find a path out of the desert of illness and despair to live lives, if not as they were, still with a sense of meaning and purpose. In our own exchanges of forgiveness and care, may we embrace a spirit of humble charity that reveals to us and others around us the love and mercy of God.
Mary, Virgin Most Charitable, pray for us!
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle C
Sunday, June 12th, 2016
Luke 7:36 – 8:3