Do Not Judge


Giving and Receiving – Gospel Karma:

(Dan 9:3-10; Ps 79; Lk 6:36-38)


The last line of today’s gospel (the measure we give is the measure we get) seems like a throw-away line, but in a homily for today, Ron Rolheiser pointed out the importance of this line.

Every world religion has either a law of karma, or something akin to it. That line from the gospel is Jesus’ version of karma, which teaches that what we put out is what we will get in return.

As Ron puts it, what we exhale into the world is what we will eventually inhale back again. This is true on all levels – physical, personal, spiritual. Physically, when we cut down too many trees, cause pollution and create conditions that produce too much carbon monoxide, we will start to breathe in carbon monoxide.

This is a kind of inviolable moral rule of the universe. No one is exempt from submitting to it – no one gets away with anything in this world. The gospel is more or less Jesus spelling out how it works personally and spiritually – be merciful and we will experience mercy; forgive and we will experience forgiveness, do not judge and we will not be judged.

We can flip the gospel around to bring out its content more forcefully: be merciless and we won’t receive mercy; judge and we will be judged; refuse to forgive and we will not receive forgiveness, be niggardly and we won’t receive anything in return.

These readings are a reminder that we need both forgiveness of our sins, and deliverance from our defects of character. Actually, the measure we give could be our guilt and shame, our sin and sinfulness – the more humble and honest we are in admitting these, and coming to God for forgiveness and healing, the more compassion, mercy and forgiveness we receive.

In today’s first reading, the prophet Daniel admits the infidelity and disobedience of the people and mentions their guilt and shame as a result. The Old Testament is full of the negative consequences of the infidelity of the chosen people to God’s covenant will – the exile and destruction of the temple being an extreme example.

Daniel, however, tips things the other way as he affirms that God is compassion and forgiveness. It is probably his experience of God working in his life that gives him so much trust in God – after all, he was saved from lions and favored by a pagan king. Certainly, this resonates with Pope Francis’ humble admission that he also is a sinner.

The psalm echoes Daniel’s sentiments – asking God not to deal with us as our sins deserve and uttering a sincere prayer for forgiveness and deliverance. This reflects the nature of God that the Messiah would reveal – a God who redeems and sanctifies, forgives and heals. It also resonates with the theme of the mercy of God that Pope Francis highlighted by a calling for a year of mercy.

While those who take the bible too literally can run into trouble, there is here one line that I think we can’t take literally enough: do not judge and we will not be judged. How easy it is for us to think of ourselves as right and everyone who disagrees with us wrong, judge them and discount them. This is calling us to truly “walk in someone else’s moccasins” before we make any hasty judgements regarding them.

A story I included in my first book Drumming From Within recounts an incident in which I found myself judging a young woman from Montreal Lake whom I happened to see at a house party that I dropped in on to support the wife of an alcoholic husband. Initially I resented the fact that she was living with someone in our community, until I stopped on the way out to talk to her, learned a bit of her horrific past and realized that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

The Eucharist is God’s amazing gift to us, sinful as we are – a source of God’s unconditional love that is meant to empower us to live the words of Jesus in today’s gospel – to be merciful as he is; to not judge; to forgive and to give generously.

And it will all be given back to us, full measure and flowing over.


Updated: February 26, 2024 — 3:16 am

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