Our readings this week began with Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel calling us to reach out to “the least”–the stranger, the prisoner, the sick, the naked. Christ reaches out to them, and he says we will find him in them.
But what about those people? Don’t some of them– perhaps many of them– deserve to be in prison or sick or out of a job? That’s what the 1st reading today from the Prophet Ezekiel asks. Why pay attention to them? Let’s take care of the good people.
In Matthew’s Gospel today Jesus takes up the same question, calling his disciples to go beyond the “righteousness” of the scribes and Pharisees, who permitted killing someone as an act of God’s judgment. Jesus returns to the ancient command, “You shall not kill.” Leave someone’s judgment to God.
And he goes further. Avoid any killing judgment against someone by anger or words. They can destroy people too. Leave ultimate judgment to God.
Does that mean we shouldn’t judge others at all? Jesus never hesitated to judge others, but before judging others he says we have to remove “the splinter in our eye.” That can be anger or arrogance or pride or a lack of self-knowledge or even an ignorance of human nature. It can come from not loving others. Make sure they’re not splinters clouding your judgment, Jesus says. (Matthew 7, 1-5)
When he came among us, some early Christian saints said, Jesus went in search of the lost image of God in every one of his creatures; he welcomed tax collectors like Matthew and others society condemned. In them he saw “the lost image of God.” He came to call sinners.
Are we meant to search for the lost image of God in others and to welcome sinners too? But how?
“Respect” is a wonderful word. It describes a wonderful virtue that I’m afraid is more and more ignored in today’s judgmental world. “Respect” comes from a Latin word meaning “to look again”, to look again at someone or some thing to see a value we didn’t see before or denied too quickly. Respect keeps looking, searching. It’s a permanent way to see others as long as we live, never losing hope of finding the image of God there.
God’s image is there. We need to see it. Lent means looking again.