Monday in the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
Scripture Readings: 2 Kgs 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18; Mt 7:1-5
Jesus cautions us about judging. St. Bernard gives us the details. St. Bernard tells us the first step of truth is to know the truth about self. “Remove the wooden beam from your own eye first.” The wooden beam is “comparison”, the mother of Pride, the begetter of sin. It is a matter of our securities and anxieties. And we think that our standard of behavior should be that of others. These affect our expectations about the future. Those expectations affect our moral deliberations. We compare injustices done to us with successes of others and draw conclusions about the fairness of life in general. Thus, comparison comes from and contributes to confusion about our real purpose in life. Such confused conclusions limit our ability to be guided by the love commandments. They saddle us with the bondage of self. They prevent us from seeking the good of others.
Next, Bernard tells us to know the truth about the other, usually the object of our comparison. When we know the truth about our own insecurities and anxieties we will be less likely to scapegoat the other. Then we will, through empathy, know the truth about the other.
Both judging and empathizing are ways of valuing. Valuing is done with the heart. The heart gives us our orientation to life. It is no wonder that Jesus gives it such attention and orders it to the good of others.
Empathy can be thought of as a judgment of the other that includes one’s own insecurities and anxieties, and weaknesses and thereby draws the other closer to self.
Most of all, it reminds us that God is the originator of all that is good within persons. As St Paul reminds the Ephesians and others,
“…[T]hrough him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone” (Eph 2:18-20).
He goes on to say, “I, then… urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph 4:1-6).
So it is all gift…and that, St. Bernard tells us, is truth in itself.