In last week’s reflection we looked at the heart, how all things that defile start in the heart. This week we continue looking at what comes from within. The stories shared in the readings make a point of being dependent on how we see and hear things. The three readings from the Lectionary for this Sunday the Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary time; have a common thread that can be recognized reading them together. Isaiah 35:4-7a; Ps 146: 6-7, 8-9, 9-10; James 2:1-5 and Mark 7:31-37 and we recognize a common theme of sight, hearing and judgement. In the first reading Isaiah proclaims that God comes to save us, he came to make the blind see, the lame walk, the mute speak, the deaf hear and God will provide life giving streams.
In the second reading James speaks about judgment and how we see people. Someone with fine clothing and gold jewelry receives a place of honor, while someone with tattered clothing and looking poor is made to feel less than honorable. James tells us that God chooses the poor so we may see rich faith and the heirs of the Kingdom. A Kingdom that is promised to those who love him.
In the gospel message Mark tells the story of a man who could not hear and spoke with an impediment. Jesus took the man aside and using his saliva touched the man’s ear and opened them so he could hear and speak plainly. He asked that no one tell what has happened but those who saw were so astonished they proclaimed what had happened, ignoring Jesus request for privacy.
Last’s week’s reflection spoke about all evil begins in the heart. Jesus told the Pharisees that nothing from outside can harm but it is what comes from the heart that defiles. In the readings this week we arrive at the message that the life of the Christian is led by the heart, so it is important we guard our heart and make a habit of blocking those things that do not give sight or sound to the goodness of God.Life of the Christian is led by the heart, so it is important we guard our heart and make a habit of blocking those things that do not give sight or sound to the goodness of God. Click To Tweet
The readings have a cast of characters that are healed and addressed but never judged. Jesus doesn’t decide that the deaf man is not good enough to be healed. James speaks specifically about the tragedy of judging the rich and the poor. But how often do we see someone and cast our judgement over them. We may not recognize ourselves doing it, it has become so reflexive. We see a man begging for money at the street corner; judged homeless, lazy, worthless. The black lady walking home from the store with a carriage of items; judged immigrant, poor, untrustworthy. The woman talking on her iPhone, wearing lots of jewelry and driving a Range Rover; judged rich, snob, uncaring. In our politics we judge more easily and readily, we see a point of view, wanting healthcare insurance for all and label the person a liberal or an interest in strict immigration law and label the person conservative. We don’t’ need to spend any time getting to know the liberal or conservative, once we know their label we know everything about them. With every judgment we are deciding what filter to use when interacting with the person we have judged.With every judgment we are deciding what filter to use when interacting with the person we have judged. Click To Tweet
Teacher of the heart
I had a chance to spend some time with a man who had a severe disability. He could not walk on his own, could not speak more than “no” and depended on others for everything in his life. When I first met him, I didn’t know him, but somehow I knew I was better than him. I could do all the things he could not do and I didn’t disrupt people and places as he did when he was present. It is his disruption that others would judge as well. He made noise at inappropriate times, even walking with his walker the wheels made sounds the caused others to turn and wonder what is happening. He was a man who was judged negatively by some who saw him without ever getting to know him. And if he was not judged negatively he was pitied. Even people who were in church passed their judgment on his behavior. These Christians could not bear his disruptive noises when they were trying to praise God, so they would turn and give him “the look.”
Being judged was not anything that bothered him. He really didn’t react to the behavior of others, nor their reaction to his way of being. In fact he looked on everyone as a potential new friend and would try to engage with strangers with a complete lack of judgment. If you existed in his sphere than you were a potential friend and he wanted to reach out to you. But, for those who loved and cared for him the reactions of others were quite offending.
After a cursory getting to know one another, I became his caregiver for an extended week long retreat. When we began I admit I wasn’t close to him and as I said I felt like I was a little better than him. Additionally, he didn’t seem to accept me right away. When he was with his family he was friendly and open to my presence. But when it was just him and I, he was much less comfortable with my presence. He would push me away and fight with me about things we had to get done. I felt a certain fear about being able to help him and my pride too was putting up walls so that his reactions to me would not cause me any pain.
In time, with close living and moments of quiet I could see he was a little afraid. I was new to his life, someone who hadn’t been helping and caring for him and so he was unsure what to think of me. Not being able to leave each other we had to work through our fear and discomfort. We had to do everything together, get ready for the day, eat meals together, attend workshops together, play together and then end our day together. In time I came to know him quite well and he came to know me too. We became deep friends, looking for each other and enjoying each other’s presence. If you saw us together now you might think we were brothers, clowning around and tender at the same time. In my life he became very important and had such a deep impact on my character that I don’t think I would be as devoted a Christian if I didn’t befriend this man who spoke very little, and by most “normal” judgment should be kept away from places with other people. His lessons on love effect my heart daily.
Many of us see people with special needs and decide something about them. On Facebook there is a video of a man with Down syndrome returning from a vacation, when he meets his dad in the first moment it is in exaggerated showing of love. The video is so touching it has been seen by more than fifty million people. Yet I wonder how many of those fifty million have taken the time to get to know someone with Down syndrome, it is not all love and fun, there are struggles too. How about the person with autism that seems a bit off or even screams out in every new situation, what is our reaction to them? We may not know how to help, but loving them and those with them might be a start. If people don’t behave the way we expect, do we try to see things from their perspective, or do we want them removed or remove ourselves from the situation?
Good comes from within
In the story of Jesus healing the man with a speech impediment, we can imagine it was a loud interaction with very little understanding. Yet, Jesus takes him aside, and makes time with him and yes heals him. But I wonder if the man was also looking for a personal connection. Why does the story mention Jesus took him aside? Did Jesus know he needed one-on-one interaction? Or is Jesus showing us how to meet someone we do not understand?
Our eyes see, our ears hear and our lips report what is in our heart. But it is the heart that leads the Christian. The good in us comes from our heart. We must guard against judging people by sight and sound and take them aside, trying to get to know people. This is important for all people; those with different skin color from us, those of a different nationality, and even those with a different political point of view. If you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction to someone you don’t know, then you need to discover what that is all about. Why are you reacting so strongly? Chances are it is something that is hurting your heart, not really anything they are doing.Our eyes see, our ears hear and our lips report what is in our heart. But it is the heart that leads the Christian. Click To Tweet
We see points of view shared on social media all the time and maybe don’t recognize how that is hardening our heart. Sure it is easy to make a joke about someone who is a “liberal” or “conservative” but when we do, we are forming a habit within us that is not God’s goodness. Even though we might think it is funny or a joke, we are hardening what we really think and judging someone we don’t know. We are judging the person who enters with tattered clothing and putting them to a lower place. Making a habit of this kind of behavior makes it more real and more difficult to remove from our heart. Our heart will lead us away from these people and we are missing a chance to become a better Christian.
Practice non-judgement often. If you see someone you would normally avoid find a way to interact with them and discover their perspective. Don’t do anything unsafe but turn those images of judgment into real people and change who you are becoming. Take someone aside you normally wouldn’t associate with and soften the judgment in your heart. It is the heart that leads the Christian and if we are making judgments we make our hearts places without love. Ultimately it is love that defines the devoted Christian. And as we read in James it is the poor that God uses to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom, they will show us the path to God. Don’t judge someone out of your life.Practice non-judgement often. If you see someone you would normally avoid find a way to interact with them. Click To Tweet It is the heart that leads the Christian and if we are making judgments we make our hearts places without love. Ultimately it is love that defines the devoted Christian. Click To Tweet