Reflection on Luke 6.36-38 (Lent)

Jesus said: Be merciful … do not judge … do not condemn … forgive … give.

In today’s short reading from Luke’s gospel we hear Jesus setting out a route map for the Christian life. The signposts for the Christian journey are made explicit in these few words. We are being given the directions that will ultimately lead us into an eternity in God’s nearer presence. We are being told the essential qualities that need to become the core of our very being if we are to have a truly faithful relationship with God.

The qualities of mercy, acceptance, forgiveness and generosity lie at the heart of Jesus’ ‘new’ commandment to love others in the same way he has loved us. When we are confronted by cruelty, whether it be verbal or physical, we are called to be merciful and forgiving. When we witness the inhumane way in which some people treat others, we are called to set aside our desire to judge and condemn. When we see the desperate need of our less fortunate neighbours, we are called to respond with generosity. 

Too often our first response when we are confronted with cruelty, inhumane behaviour and desperate need is to seek a way of blaming the victim for their own plight. We try to deflect our responsibility to respond in Christian love by telling ourselves that such people have brought their misfortune upon themselves. We display the exact opposite qualities to those listed by Jesus in today’s reading. In fact, we heap even more misery into the lives of the unfortunate victims whose condition we should be seeking to relieve.

Jesus’ words to us are not the idealistic teaching of someone who is disconnected with the reality of the human condition. Jesus lived the human life. Jesus himself showed mercy, acceptance, forgiveness and generosity throughout his ministry. Jesus welcomed sinners, healed the untouchables of first-century society, forgave those whose sins condemned them to a life on the outside and, in the generosity of his love, he fed the hungry and healed the sick. Jesus was the one who got down on his knees and performed the menial task of washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus was the one who gave his own life for the benefit of humanity. Jesus’ life was a demonstration of what it means to follow the route map we find in today’s reading.

Let us pray that we might set aside our human preferences and prejudices and follow the path of Christ as we share his Good News, and as we reflect his light in this dark world.