Be merciful, just as also 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 (Lk 6:36-38, today’s gospel reading for the ordinary form of the Mass).
Banal and mushy catechesis has led many of us to explain passages like this away in the interests of defending the right and duty to think critically. And, of course, we should resist the sentimentalist accusation of “being judgmental” as we strive to discern right from wrong. But explaining away Our Lord’s words is no good either, nor is limiting our exegesis to describing what Our Lord is not saying, namely, that God is the big teddy bear in the sky and everyone is going to heaven.
The fact is that Our Lord is the only one who is in position to judge and we really have very little to complain about when we compare the injustices done to us to those done to Him. Our Lord measures by the length of His arms on the cross. When He says: Forgive them for they know not what they do (Lk 23:34), the appropriate response for us is to put our hand over our mouth (cf. Job 40:40).
We hold our neighbor to all kinds of standards that we don’t keep ourselves. We have much more “righteous” indignation about the faults and sins of others than we do about the true honor of God. What is more pathetic, sometimes we are blind to the truth of it. We have a million excuses.
We can cry for justice, but when at the last judgment Our Lord extends His wounded hands over the cosmos and over the living and the dead, we will all be reduced to silence. Then after we all finally realize the truth of things we will cry for mercy, but then mercy will have passed. Then there will be justice and only justice. Now is time for mercy and we should cry for it now, and above all, we should show it.
That is Our Lord’s measure. May it be ours as well.
That is what is so alarming about that little word – “as” – in the Our Father. “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Our Lord warns us that the degree to which we are willing to forgive others is the degree to which we will be forgiven; no more, no less. Yikes, to say the least! Best/blessings