Today’s well-known gospel passage from Mt. 7 can be summed up in the words,
“If you want to avoid judgment, stop passing judgment.”
Clearly, Jesus is speaking here of negative and moral judgments.
For whatever reason, this passage reminded me of my arrival here at Loyola in September of 2000. At that time, among the Jesuits on staff and in the community, was Fr. Tom Walsh. Tom had been my novice director in the late 60’s and I was definitely now encountering him on a rather different “footing”! My many shared years with Tom in community turned into one of the major blessings of my life.
Those who remember Tom know that he was at heart a very happy person with a booming laugh. What I realized relatively early on was that he also was very inclined to zero in on people’s positive qualities and to comment on, acknowledge them. And not surprisingly, whenever he did, people would “blossom” in smiles in front of him. I witnessed this countless times over the years, wherever in the house he happened to be talking with people.
Needless to say, the opposite trait is criticism, looking for, finding, and commenting on the negative in others. While one’s reaction may not always be visibly apparent, I think it safe to assume that internally the recipient of the judgment “wilts” and withers.
Jesus, too, was a very happy and positive person. Might this have more than a little to do with the fact that He attracted large crowds? Who isn’t attracted to a joyful person?
And His tendency also was to zero in on the positive rather than the negative. You can ask His close friend Peter, who denied Him three times. You can ask the woman caught in adultery. And if he had been a real person, you could also ask the Prodigal Son! The heart of Jesus is on clear display in each of these instances.
One way of confirming the truth of Jesus’ words above is to deal with them on their own terms. That is, the damage done with judgment and the total hypocrisy involved, as though the one passing judgment is totally faultless and above judgment themselves.
Another way is to think of people like Tom. He was not unique, though people like him may be sadly in rather short supply. He followed Jesus’ example in a very significant way on a daily basis here in the hallways of Loyola.
On a daily basis we encounter many people. Each is both gifted and flawed. We have a choice:
WILT or BLOSSOM.