By Melanie Rigney
I’m the oldest daughter of an oldest daughter of an oldest daughter. I laugh and tell people who ask why I didn’t have children that that line of hyper-responsible, hypervigilant women had to end. But it’s not totally a joke.
“And if anyone hears my words and does not observe them, I do not condemn him, for I did not come to condemn the world but to save the world.” ~John 12:47
Regardless of your birth order, you may have some of that gene. You know, the one that tells you there’s one right way to fold towels and sheets, to drive, to wrap a present, to dress… and woe be onto those who don’t go along with it. I am your sister, even if we don’t share DNA. (My now ex-husband’s favorite nickname for me was “Super Cop of the World.”) The secret behind all that private and sometimes not-so-private condemnation is that when your expectations are that exacting, you, those you love, and the world at large are never going to live up to them.
What’s the point in even trying? If we can’t live up to our own standards, how could we possibly meet His?
And that is the lesson I take from today’s Gospel reading. Jesus came to save us. Through His death and resurrection, we are offered the hope of eternal life.
The more challenging part of the reading for me is that He doesn’t condemn those who choose not to follow His words. Imagine that! It takes away any power we’ve given ourselves to condemn. That means no snarky comment about the person with twenty items in the clearly marked ten-items-or-fewer lane at the grocery store; no silent seething about the parent who doesn’t take the crying toddler out of the sanctuary during Mass; and no telling our daughter’s best friend she’s too young to wear black all the time.
Jesus sets the perfect example: love and welcome and accept people as He does. Offer the invitation to the Word, and leave the judging to the Father on the Last Day. Until then, do what Jesus did: provide gentle correction when the Spirit directs, and distance yourself from those who would threaten your salvation without condemning them. Strive to behave in a way that your nickname might be something like “Super Accepter of the World.”
Where should you leave the judging to God?
About the author:
Melanie Rigney attempts to grow in acceptance each day, and finds help in reading and writing about our beloved saints. Her latest book is Radical Saints: 21 Saints for the 21st Century (Franciscan Media). She lives in Arlington, VA. Check her out at www.melanierigney.com.