Where Francis leads us today in his reflection is in many ways a lesson in not being too hard on ourselves. Judging other is a problem but we can also be too judgmental toward our own selves. Jesus offers a compassionate, non-punitive, win-win type of justice!
Is it Safe to judge? — Anyone? — Anything?
As I added year-to-year making myself older and getting more learning at school, my mind was getting more and more engrossed in the idea of sin and recompense. The teachers I had were diligent in reinforcing those concepts, although those concepts were in conflict with the remnants of my earlier feelings of union and embrace in regard to what I now had learnt to call "God". I grappled with the idea I'd learnt that God, heaven and I were somehow separate. In fact, the exercise remained a torment for me for years to come.
"Brother, how can I get to heaven?" I asked my teacher. "Only by prayer and penance", he replied.
I remembered my mother speaking of penance during the Great Depression.
"Francis", she said. "When you are hungry you must offer it up as penance".
I had no idea what penance was and said so. Also, I had no recollection of being hungry. I enjoyed what I had. "You'll learn more about penance later at school. Francis".
I have heard now that some of the brother-teachers had been influenced by teachings inspired by Cornelius Jansen. I did not know that then. However, I had learnt I must abide by what mother Church taught and the brothers were my teachers in the Church. Consequently, under jansenistic influence my mind saw me as somehow a sinner and worthy of nothing but damnation. I found it difficult to pray as I was afraid of "God" who seemed so different from the One, the Presence and the Embrace of my childhood.
About that time, when I was eleven or twelve, I bought for myself a New Testament (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine version). I became rather fanatical about reading it, for it introduced me to Jesus of Nazareth. Here was a man who related everything to God and in his words and actions showed me a God more like the way I had experienced in my childhood and quite different from the condemning "God" that I was hearing about at school and in church. At first my reading was of words relating to finding happiness in this world without turning to idols. However as I prayerfully mused over the words I found a deeper, more spiritual or mystical meaning behind the words and events leading me to discover an inner life where God abides. It seemed that I was awakening as from a dream to the knowledge that God is all that is and that I am part of that Oneness in love and happiness. This process for me was very slow and progressed only through intuitive insights gained through prayer and a habit of being still in mind. It continued until I felt I was getting closer to my childhood experience of oneness, embrace and joy. It was not being gained by learning — of which I have had plenty — but by my being quiet and still and letting Oneness pervade my life. I was one who let idols into my life to give me happiness, but now I am very slowly re-entering a world where I was meant to be, where God is nothing but intimate, not remote, just and loving, not punitive, but creative and making me creative.
It took me years of frequent reading and meditation on the New Testament to allow this message to gel and become clear. This clarity is overcoming the tension that arose in me at times from what seemed a conflict between how Church teaching is being presented and the far-reaching and deep messages Jesus is giving me in the Scriptures.
At this point I need to refer to two incidents in the New Testament.
Do not judge and you will not be judged...
"Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me", cried Bartimaeus, a blind beggar.
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked. "Master, let me see again", Bartimaeus pleaded.
Jesus' compassion extended beyond the bodily problem of the man. Jesus knew that sight is what I needed in my life even though I had functioning bodily eyes. The idols and other veils I had placed between me and the truth had to be removed. There is a lot of truth for me to see and I needed more than eyes for that. Still moments and the guidance of the Holy Spirit are gradually doing that for me.
"Do not judge and you will not be judged because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get". Jesus declared (Matt 7:1-2).
I had read these words in the days of my adopting the New Testament as my main reading but in a version that went: judge not, lest you be condemned. These words made a deep impression on my mind and I made a point of practicing Jesus' suggestion. However, I practiced them rather shakily in relation to other people's behaviour and fearing damnation if I dared pass judgment on another.
As still time and prayer continues within me, I am being enlightened to see beyond the superficial to not judging the world by its appearances and forms and to look more deeply for content — for reality.
As I got to know the God that Jesus knew, I felt it was the same One that I was intimate with as a child: — absolute, just with a win-win type of justice, compassionate and non-punitive.
I found I was the one who was punitive but to myself. Although I usually refrained from judging the behaviour of others, I was severe in judging my own. This is what I had allowed myself to be taught, in my confused state balancing what was delivered as Church teaching and what I knew of New Testament messages. I suffered so much torment to the extent of being in a hell of my own making. What I believed in my confused mind is what I allowed to happen to me. The only solace at that time was my now rather sketchy memory of my childhood experience with the One and the ability to withdraw and be still if only for moments at a time. There also remained a feeling of remembering something prior to childhood like a song half-remembered that I could not quite latch onto then.
It was years before sanity began to return to me although I joined in with football, cricket and other sports, athletics and swimming, hiking and other adventures, family picnics and school excursions and the full life of a growing boy. I added to that the adventures of joining the Franciscan Order, becoming a missionary priest in Papua New Guinea, with papal permission getting married and becoming the father of six children and in the process becoming more mystical in my thinking. I will write of these experiences in later chapters but only as they relate to a deeper understand of the inner me and my relationship to God.
I began to feel that somewhere in the beginnings of my existence, in a stage seemingly prior to my birth, I had made an impossible mistake in making a judgment that I was somehow separate from my Creator and entered a sort of dream state I believed was real. In my putting myself into a hell state, as I mentioned earlier, I realized that if I stopped judging as Jesus taught, I would awaken from the dream, find I had never left the embrace of my creator and was actually in heaven. The first step was to stop judging myself, seeing me as my Creator saw me and to accept content instead of form and appearances. This was giving me a better dream than the nightmare I had been living, in which I could see no salvation. Idols, not God were what I was giving homage to and I needed to let them go as all they seemed to do for me was only in the confused mind that made them. I realized I was only, as if I were playing a childish game. (Remember the boy who asked his father to let him be a horse in Chapter 5?) My experience of the world since my awakening state is that I see me as different from the years since starting school. I am letting go all judgments I made, in my learning years, about me and the world. I am more like I was as a pre-school child and I see a world I know intuitively is somewhat closer to the Mind of my Creator. It is still a dream for I have not fully awakened but I'm awakening to a world without idols and where I see the forms in the dream as one with me and my Creator and as innocent as created. This dream, in which I see only innocence, releases me from judgment — the cause in me of the concept of separation. The last remaining veils are being removed from my vision of my Creator and my heaven. 2003
A Song of Forgiveness
Listen! Brother-Sister mine! I see you
What are your thoughts on this commentary?