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When and How to Speak
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to his disciples: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”
Opening Prayer: Father, I am weak and fall often, but you never leave me. You love me and desire trust in your forgiveness and mercy. Help me see myself and others through your eyes of love. Father, in this time of prayer, help me notice when I judge and condemn others while excusing my own faults. Because I know you love me, Lord, I trust you to show me. In faith, I embrace Christ’s example of trust in you and love for all humanity. Grant me the grace to live in humility, charity, and patience with those in whom I see faults.
- Judging?: In this passage, we receive a very clear message about judging our neighbor: don’t do it! Yet, a few versus later (Matthew 7:15-19), we are encouraged to exercise critical thinking: “Beware of false prophets” and “By their fruits you will know them.” What can we take from this? While we are not to condemn others, we do need to discern what is true and good from what is false. Discernment is essential to following the Lord faithfully. In discernment, we seek God’s will so that we can unite ourselves to it and do what he is calling us to do. Part of discernment is awareness of the impact external influences have on us, and that requires evaluation or critical thinking. We ask ourselves if that influence draws us closer or leads away from God, even incrementally. As we consider the influences in our life, we ask, “Does it conform to the truth as taught by Holy Mother Church? Does it encourage individualism and self-sufficiency or does it encourage dependence on and obedience to Christ?”
- Humility and Charity: Why does it often seem that we more easily see what others do wrong than what they do right? Humility and charity go hand in hand. Humility lets us see our own weaknesses and faults and sympathize with others. Humility lets us recognize our own need for God’s mercy and so understand and forgive the faults of others. God alone knows the whole story behind someone’s behavior. We should try to focus on the other’s good points, one’s virtues, and to excuse one’s faults as much as possible, and when we can’t excuse them, to follow the advice of St. Francis de Sales: “…let us at least make it worthy of compassion by attributing the most favorable cause we can to it, such as ignorance or weakness” (Introduction to the Devout Life, III, 28). We are called to love as Christ loved, and his love was not dependent upon behavior. In charity, we pray for others, and we sacrifice in reparation for their actions.
- Speaking in Charity: A key element of the Christian life is charity in speech. Some of us may remember being told that when we speak of others, we should ask, “Is it true? Is it kind or good? Is it necessary or useful?” If what we want to say doesn’t pass all three tests, we don’t say it. However, at times, we may be called to gentle, fraternal correction (Matthew 18:15-17). Charity, and particularly charity in speech, does not mean avoiding all possible conflict. Sometimes we have to speak up about an injustice or damaging behavior. In fact, the Catechism identifies fraternal correction as a demand of charity (cf. CCC 1829), and that charity must be evident in what is said. This requires self-examination of one’s motives and humility about one’s own faults. One must pray for strength and patience to respond to any anger with humility and charity. Further, one must always be prepared to receive fraternal correction with charity and humility, difficult though it may be.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, when I look at your life, I see your love for those who opposed you, those who tortured you, and those who put you to death. No one was outside the reach of your love. Even when your disciples squabbled among themselves about who was the greatest or wanted to call down fire down on those who wouldn’t welcome them, you loved them and had patience with them. Help me have that same kind of patience with those who are different from me, with those in whom I find fault. Help me to love them as you loved them. Open my heart to see my own weakness and so grow in understanding and mercy for others.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be particularly attentive to my thoughts and speech today and strive to speak encouraging, uplifting words to others. When I find myself dwelling on negative thoughts, I will pray the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
For Further Reflection: Pope Francis’s Homily at St. Crispin of Viterbo Parish in Rome 2019, addressing this Gospel passage.
Janet McLaughlin and her husband, Chris, live on a mountain in rural northeastern Oregon. She puts her Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies to work as she shares the beauty and importance of the lay vocation in her writing, speaking, and teaching on spiritual topics.