Do Not Judge

08-04-2019From the Pastor's DeskFr. George Thomas

This week’s Pastor’s column was written by Fr. George Thomas, who is working in our parish over the summer months.

When Msgr. Walden asked me to write the From the Pastor’s Desk column for the parish bulletin, I was a bit confused about what to write. Then one of my classmates back from Kerala called me up. While we were talking, he asked me to evaluate the cultures of India, Belgium (where I am studying) and the United States. Even though it sounded innocuous, the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced of the complications involved in answering it. This gave me an idea about the subject to write about for the bulletin. But when I started to mull over what to write and how to write, I started feeling like “Oh God, what have I gotten myself into!” On the periphery, it seemed to be like a very simple task, a piece of cake, so to speak. However, as I began to seriously think about it, it dawned on me that there are so many layers to the issue at stake and that I know next to nothing about these cultures. Evaluating these different cultures will necessarily entail some judgements. A judgement needs to be objective for it to have some semblance of authenticity. And in order to be objective, a lot of research has to be done to understand the nuances and subtleties involved. At the very onset, I have to humbly say that I am not qualified to make such a judgement. Nevertheless, I am using my ignorance to prove a point that is very dear to the heart of the New Testament and something that appears time and again in the teachings of Jesus and his apostles – do not judge.

Jesus says: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (Mt 7:1-5).

This teaching seems to be quite unreasonable because our day-to-day life goes on smoothly on the basis of judgements that we make every moment of our life. From the time we open our eyes in the morning to the time we close our eyes at night, we are constantly making judgements. This process of judging happens almost without our even being aware of it. We will really be surprised to know the number of judgements we make every day if we consciously introspect our actions and thoughts. This process takes place even in very mundane aspects of our every day – what type and color of clothes we are going to wear, what are we going to have for breakfast, whether or not to overtake a vehicle while driving, whether or not to greet a person that we meet on the way etc. Our judgements are what keep us going in much more complicated matters when life presents us with options that can make or break our life; for example, choosing the right course for study, the right partner, the right job etc. We also use the faculty of judgement to judge the words and actions of people. Thus, the act of judging is quite normal for us and hence makes possible the smooth running of our life. Then why does Jesus ask us not to judge?

This can be illustrated with an example. When thinking about what to write about Indian culture, I was at a loss from where to start for the simple reason that it is so vast and varied that it is not possible to express it in a few words. India is a very complicated reality of 1.3 billion people belonging to more than eight major world religions with their different sects as well as many other aboriginal religions. There are 22 official languages and numerous other dialects. The culture of Indians depends upon the state they are in, the religion they belong to, the caste and the sect they are born into, and a myriad of other factors. I find it difficult to even describe the culture of Kerala (my home state) though I do know a lot of facts about Kerala. However, that which I know is only the tip of the iceberg. There is much more depth to the culture and ethos than I can ever fathom. I am sure that this is the case with each one of us – be it Americans or Belgians.

When we evaluate our own life, this becomes much clearer. Often times, we find ourselves wondering why are we the way we are – why we behave in a certain way, why our attitudes and aptitudes are oriented in a particular way and so on. If we really make an introspection, we will be forced to humbly accept that we do not know a lot of things about ourselves. We are quite enigmatic at times to ourselves because each human being is a mystery unto him/herself. If we are not so sure about ourselves, then how can we be so sure about others? Can this not be the reason why Jesus tells us not to judge? We cannot simply judge people by their actions. To make a more or less comprehensive judgement, we need to consider also the intentions of the person concerned, circumstances that led to the action, and consequences which arise from the action. Invariably, when we make judgements about others, we forget all these and consider our own judgements as the right ones. Sometimes we are quick to condemn others forgetting the fact that we always judge from our own frame of reference which may not be applicable to the person whom we judge.

This does not mean that we should refrain from making judgements in our everyday life – this would prove disastrous. The implication is that we should be humble enough to accept that our judgements are not ultimate and that the reality may not be as we perceive it. It is in this respect that Jesus exhorts us to be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt 10:16). Hence, let us be less judgemental and more accepting; let us be slow to condemn and quick to be compassionate. At the same time, let us also be brave enough to denounce any tendencies that degrade the dignity and sacredness of life.

One day two hunters went hunting with their dog in a forest. As they were hunting, a strong gust of wind blew away the hat of one of the hunters to a nearby lake. Disgusted, they sat helplessly near the lake as both of them did not know how to swim. Then their dog went to retrieve the hat, walking on the water. One of the hunters asked the other: “Hey, what do you make of this?” The other hunter answered: “I guess the dog does not know how to swim either.”