Do you ever have a feeling of discomfort on hearing a certain Scripture proclaimed? That is exactly how I feel when I hear these Scriptures on Jesus’ “Woes.” In today’s verses, Jesus’ makes it completely clear where he stands; he is very frustrated with the posture adopted by the Pharisees as well as their questioning of him. Nonetheless today he is speaking about the “woes.’ One commentary I read suggested that nowhere in the Scriptures did Jesus say, do not pay attention to the laws of the day. He was a devout Jew.
I believe that every time we find ourselves disturbed by a certain Scripture it is an invitation to stretch our idea of who God is for us. We are all familiar with Jesus’ warnings to not judge. He reminds us that this is reserved for his Father. Matthew chapter seven offers us the exact words displayed in today’s Gospel. In essence: if we judge then we will be judged on the measure with which we judge. It sounds very fair to me. Except I need to keep vigil and be careful to keep a vigilant mind. I need to constantly catch myself in the very act of thoughtful judging. What today’s readings invite us to contemplate is “How am I doing in right relationship with others? Do I impose heavy burdens on my brothers and sisters by the virtue of my expectations? Is it possible that when we judge others, we are judging Jesus?
This is not something new. Therefore, can we pause for a moment and wonder if Jesus’ words were an admonition to not judge him? Could he see this in the future? Perhaps this is why he says these specific words. And we know that others’ judging him had grave consequences for him. St. Paul echoes this sentiment in his letter to the Romans with his beautiful words: ”we hold his priceless kindness of God….which should lead us to repentance. Romans 2:5f (Scripture taken from NAB)
It may be helpful to take a look at our Entrance Antiphon for today’s Liturgy.
“If you, O Lord, should mark our iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But with you is found forgiveness, O God of Israel.” (Psalm 130:3-4)
So, may we approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) in humble love and trust in our common, secured future. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.