Orbiting Dicta

8th Sunday of the Year in Ordinary Time

Is 49:14-15
1 Cor 4:1-5
Mt 6:24-34

In the Church’s calendar, this is the 8th Sunday of the year in ordinary time, as we like to call it.  We don’t get many of those because the first Sunday of Lent often eclipses it. The last time we had one was back in 2011.  So some of the scriptural readings may be a little less familiar to you, if you have been trying to keep up.

As it happens, the readings are appropriate enough for this year, and, yes, election day and the primaries are approaching like the next snow storm.  We can expect more mud in the air than snow, however, as that has become the kind of thing we hear and see so much of.  Too much of. But it’s not just politics – it’s also the norm in show business, and tonight, of course, is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one – for those steeped in the tradition of the Academy awards.  We can’t get enough of it, and if we have some awful news about actors, directors, and producers to spread around, so much the better. Sports figures, too.  Entire television programs seem to be aimed at finding out and reporting the worst about anyone.  And if you get tired of shows dissing the rich and famous and powerful there’s Maury and Jerry Springer.

St. Paul’s commentary is very different.  He was no stranger to calumny, bad mouthing, unfair criticism, and general rash judgment.  It must have stung at times, but in the end, he could care less what people thought about him.  “Stop passing judgment,” was his verdict.  By ‘judgment,” he means negativity, condemnation.  You might detect a little echo here of what we heard from the Letter of St. James three weeks back concerning sins of speech.

I was particularly impressed by the comment of Pope Francis when a reporter asked him about gay people in that famous candid interview.  No doubt they were expecting the usual tirade from Christians such as we are hearing more and more in Uganda, Nigeria, So. Africa, and Russia.  But what they got sounded more like St. Paul: “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord?”

Who am I to judge?  A thoughtful fellow I knew years ago defined a fundamentalist as someone who holds the bible up to your face and pulls the trigger.  Of course, you could also say that was judgmental.  It’s hard to get away from it.  But it’s worth trying.  Paul’s defense was his total trust in God. As we heard in that first lovely reading from Isaiah, God will never forget us.  Everyone else might forsake us, but God never will.

For Jesus, it’s the same, not surprisingly.  Why worry about things that ultimately do not matter?  If a child suffers because she is bullied at school, it’s because she has already learned that what others say counts.  But it doesn’t. Not really.  But we have to learn that – over and over.  If God is for us, who can be against us? [Rom 8:31]. Isaiah and Jesus say the same thing: God knows what we need better than we do.  Like Paul, we should put our trust there.

Lent is almost here.  Time to take stock.  It might be good to begin by trying to stop worrying about ourselves and judging others harshly.  Let’s get a little more God into our lives.