Friday, September 07, 2012

Judgment Day

I suppose the title is a little sneaky, because I'm not going to write about that Judgment Day, but about today's readings. Which do, for the record, have to do with the vexing problem of judgmentalism.

In our day, of course, "being judgmental" is the one universally condemned sin. And today's readings hint at why, and what to do about that.

In the first reading. St Paul himself has come under judgment. You can tell it stings, but he shakes it off like dirt from his sandals. "I do not pass judgment even on myself; the one who judges me is the Lord." And the Lord will come, St Paul assures the Corinthians, "So do not make any judgment before the Lord brings to light what is hidden in darkness...." That very same Lord, in the Gospel, appears to be the object of some subtle judgment on the part of "the scribes and Pharisees," keepers of the established order. They don't accuse Jesus of anything untoward, but merely observe that while the disciples  of the universally admired John the Baptist (as well as the disciples of the Pharisees) are noteworthy for their disciplined lives, for their prayers and fasting, Jesus' disciples are undistinguished in that regard, to say the least.

In both readings, the ones under judgment turn the tables by revealing an unexpected reality: Paul is a "servant of Christ and steward of the mysteries of God"; Jesus is the Bridegroom whose presence transforms life into a wedding feast.

Does that mean that when we see manifestly harmful or evil behavior we should shrug it off? That would be the easy thing to do. I am afraid that the today's readings invite us to take a different approach. Rather than sizing up the situation and having all our decisions made, or just putting people into categories and leaving them there, we could consider them as fellow guests at a wedding. Perhaps representing the other party, but fellow-guests at the same event all the same. With a little grace (and maybe a little wine, too) we can enter into conversation with them. Not the kind of entrance the Pharisees made in today's Gospel (little more than a reproach), but a conversation that can make us "new wineskins," ready to "dispense the mysteries of God" without bitterness.
On thie First Friday, that can be more important than ever.

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