Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
When I was a principal of one of our high schools, I kept a copy of the children’s book The Emperor’s New Clothes on the shelves behind my desk. Briefly, the plot of the story is that a vain and officious emperor was fooled by two conmen into buying a set of clothes out of a fabric invisible to those who are stupid or incompetent. As the conmen simulate dressing the emperor in his new suit, his ministers look on aghast that he is in fact naked, but they didn’t want to say anything for fear they would be called incompetent and lose their positions.
Bolstered by his ministers’ dishonest flattery, the emperor decides to go out and greet his subjects in his new outfit to see if they are intelligent enough to see the rich suit. In fact, the people don’t want to be labeled as stupid and so they all applauded as the pompous emperor walked down the street.
Then suddenly a little boy who hadn’t been concerned about professing obvious falsity in order to “fit in” yelled out, “But he’s not wearing anything!” The whole house of cards came crashing down and the humiliated emperor realized his foolish snobbery.
Jesus effectively does the same thing as the tale’s little boy in the gospel today. He tells the people the truth that they are not the only ones God considers special, and then he provides examples from their own scriptures. This infuriates them and they try to kill him! It’s scary to think of the lengths we will go to protect our illusions of who we are. When we choose the illusory self over the truth that Jesus tells us, then he can only leave us to our own foolish delusions. When we selfishly act as if God favors us over others, we refuse to hear Jesus calling us out of ourselves. Since we are not listening, it is as if Jesus went away.
What truth is Jesus trying to tell you about yourself, your real self, not the illusion you hold up for others?
Lord, if we fall into behavior motivated by a self-preoccupation for approval, status, or financial gain, help us to recognize the emptiness of this pursuit. Let your Spirit speak to us through those who love us, through the reading of your Word, and through the various gifts that fill our lives. Lord, please guide us toward an authentic life and empower us to reject those illusions that place image over substance.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team