“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” [Matt. 7:1-3, KJV]
I grew up with a friend who happened to be born blind. He was a truly gifted person, fortunately surrounded by family who loved him, several bothers and sisters all encouraged to excel and revel in their gifts, and he was no different – never coddled. Cory had a lighthearted laugh that was infectious and that came easily to him – a trait all his siblings shared. Their parents, however, were a different story. They were pleasant people and made friends feel like extended family. Still, there was something about them, a sadness?
When I got my driver’s license, Cory told me that it was like he had gotten his too. He said that we would be free to travel everywhere and I could describe the sights to him. His mother, who was standing nearby, turned away and I caught a glimpse of her face and knew she was crying. Later, I asked his mother if she was upset with me talking about my driver’s license and the experience of the test I had taken – afraid that she was sad Cory would never be able to have that same experience.
Cory’s mother answered me “No, that’s not it, but when Cory was born we went to our pastor to ask how to deal with his blindness, the fear we had, the challenges we would face, it was overwhelming…He was our first child… I was in tears, as we poured out our souls to him, sharing our doubts, we were emotionally and spiritually vulnerable…” She went on, “Without the slightest bit of compassion, quickly, as though he were stating the obvious which I should have been able to grasp, he told us Cory was blind because God was punishing us for our sins – his blindness was a warning for us to repent…”
I had compassion for her, and righteous indignation at the words of poison spit at her by a “spiritual leader,” a “religious man.” This revelation gave birth in me to a cynicism towards those who set themselves up as religious and spiritual judges – those who claim to be the spokesmen of God.
How easily judgment comes out of our mouths. Instead of words of healing or words to give strength we offer words that tear at the heart. Sometimes words that mean nothing to us, but cause spiritual death to others.
This Sunday is The First Sunday in Advent. The first day of the Christian Calendar Year, and the beginning of a four week period of reflection on the coming of God into the world as one of us, the Incarnation, the Nativity of Jesus the Christ. It is also a time of preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus – the baby that grew up, died for our sins, and rose again, ascending into Heaven. Let us ask ourselves if our words and actions are those of people who have experienced the power of God’s love and compassion, His forgiveness, shared through lifting up those who are hurting, in brokenness, confusion, depression, or just oppressed by the challenges of life.
Has our own spiritual blindness left us unable to see and discern our opportunities to transform, rather than deform… Help us Lord to be kinder in this new year, curb our tongues, open our eyes, and share your love.
The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.
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