Intention: For a spirit of compassion and generosity among all who are able to share what they have with others, especially with those who are most in need.
Today’s Gospel | Luke 6:36-38
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”
A Lenten Reflection
In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others, we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace to which others are just as entitled as we are.” It seems that the problem of persons treating each other uncharitably has been with us beyond memory. Trying to reconcile human beings one to another has been the focus of governments, educators, social movements, and religions. The great irony here appears to be that the causes of such deep and complicated conflicts could be resolved, as Jesus teaches, with such a simple personal choice: to be merciful.
So, what does it mean to be merciful? Today’s Gospel is a series of separate statements that most likely were not intended to be taken separately. While each action certainly can stand alone as a lesson in virtue, it is when they are understood as different facets of mercy that one comes to realize their true power. To be merciful requires us to be at once strong and vulnerable, wounded and healing, in all of our conduct. When we approach each other transparently, honest in just how alike our stumbles and our struggles are, we cannot help but see our collective need for hope and redemption, for another chance to get things right. Giving and receiving mercy is simply how we admit that we are all in this together.
As Bonhoeffer’s quote suggests, judging others is an act that deludes us about both others and ourselves. In the season of Lent, we are called to see more clearly by cutting through the fog of sinfulness. We can begin by learning humility and compassion. As we let go of the errors of thinking of ourselves as better or of thinking of others as different, we will open the door to the God of wisdom and mercy who has been patiently waiting for us on the other side. And we will know the illumination that is love.
Eternal Father, you have given each of us gifts that are uniquely ours, but so often we fail to value the gifts in others. We judge other’s gifts as threatening or as less important than our own. In this time of Lent, fill us with the compassion that we need to embrace each other with understanding and welcoming arms. Help us to remember that you are using all of us to bring your peace and mercy to the world. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.