Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Scriptural Readings: Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalms 145: 8-9, 15-16, 17-18; Romans 8: 35, 37-39; Matthew 14: 13-21
My dear encountered couples:
Jesus fed the hungry, five thousand people. He was often found doing kind things. He cured the sick, forgave sinners, even raised the dead. But all those things he did would have had no lasting effect on people if there were not something else about him that was extra special.
Jesus, deep down inside, was a good person, a wonderful person. Not only was he a man of integrity, honest to the core, but those who met him or even just observed him could sense a special quality of goodness coming from him. He didn’t just do things for people as if they were objects to do things for, a means for getting high marks with his Father, or to win favor with people, he didn’t even merely do things as best he could because of pride. He cared deeply for people, he loved people with a passion. And it came through in his actions. It was not his miracles that won people over, it was he himself - his personality, his character, his warmth and genuine concern. It all overflowed upon anyone who came near him. The miracles of Jesus caught people’s attention; it was he himself who captured their hearts. Do you know why?
I can give you at least one reason why, a very big reason. And it was not something Jesus possessed. It was something he didn’t possess. Jesus did not have a judgmental disposition! Jesus was in no way a judgmental person. And because of that he was free of the biggest barrier that keeps many people from many people.
Now I am not saying we should never judge. Making judgments is part of our nature. It is natural for us to judge just about everything that happens and just about everybody we meet. How else are we to make intelligent and wise decisions? Judgments about the worth of this or that must be made before we can choose this or that. A man and woman must judge one another before deciding to marry. An employer must judge a prospective employee before hiring; the employee must judge the job and employer before accepting any offer. Such judgments are no more than common sense.
But when I am speaking about a “judgmental disposition” I am talking about a person who has fallen into the habit of judging just about everything and everyone negatively. You know what I mean. There are people who are pleased with no one and no thing. They complain and condemn as a way of life. And because of that they cut themselves off, they shut themselves off from other people. Because they are judgmental, they limit their freedom to be with certain other people.
Jesus was not judgmental. And without a judgmental disposition it was possible for him to mingle freely and feel comfortable with people of all levels and lifestyles. He never felt out of place. Because he didn’t prejudge people, because he condemned no one, he was free to be with whomever he chose. He could get along magnificently in the company of sinners as well as in the company of saints. And all could feel he loved them - because he did.
It was no act he was putting on. Neither in his words nor in his attitude did he make them feel inferior to himself. And this is a rare experience for people. There are always those who are ready to condemn somebody for something or other; but not Jesus. Jesus did not come to condemn people, he told us that himself. He came to save.
And his way of saving did not include degrading anyone, ridiculing anyone, embarrassing anyone; it was to draw everyone by the power of his personality to dreaming dreams they had never dared to dream before, to attempting feats they had always thought were beyond them. By not being judgmental towards people it left Jesus as free as can be to be with whomever he wanted, to talk with whomever he wanted, to eat and laugh with whomever he wanted.
It was his warm personable-ness that drew people to him, then through himself to God his Father. Jesus was able to make saints out of sinners by refusing to judge and condemn them. He wants us to do the same. And oh how much he wished the same of the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the Jewish people! But a goodly number of them would have none of it.
And so, for them Jesus did have a few sharp words. He was trying to wake up the scribes and Pharisees. Do you know what it was he was trying to wake them up to? To their judgmental dispositions! The scribes and Pharisees were habitually judging, criticizing, and condemning just about everybody, probably even each other. Jesus told them they were lacking in love for the very people they were supposed to be leading to God. He told them they didn’t even love God. He pointed out to them that they were persistently cruel in their thoughts and judgments of others. Their judgmental ways shut them off from the very people it was their job to help save. It was also shutting them off from God.
If you and I allow ourselves to be judgmental we too will be of little use to anyone. We must be free in order to help others. Judgmental dispositions take away that freedom. Judgmental attitudes and dispositions put up walls between us and others. Being judgmental antagonizes people, it separates and divides us, it makes us enemies.
Jesus fed the hungry, cured the sick, forgave sinners, and even raised the dead. But all those things would have had no lasting effect on people if there were not something else about him that was extra special. Jesus was footloose and fancy free to love everybody and be with everybody because he was not judgmental. Wouldn’t you like to be like that? I sure would. So, let’s see what we can do about it.