When Philip told Nathanael that they had found “the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth”, Nathanael asks “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Nathanael reveals a common human characteristic, namely a tendency to make quick judgments.
Jesus repeatedly instructed his disciples and the people to whom he preached to “Stop judging that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1) He would ask why we look at the splinter in another person’s eye and not the wooden beam in our own eye. Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone! Quick judgments are often revealed through the occasional use of inappropriate words or swearing.
Jesus told his disciples that “on the day of judgment, people will render an account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). We ought to set aside any careless use of words. Setting aside our tendency to judge others while realizing our own huge imperfections is a necessity before welcoming the Lord into our hearts.
The recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida caused much hurt and anguish, and the precious loss of life for seventeen innocent people. We are gradually coming to learn more about the troubled mind and personality of the shooter. His unusual and bizarre behaviors, and his anger and bitterness shown to others, were often observed by many far in advance of the tragic event. This is characteristic of many such persons who choose to hurt others in violent ways. Such people are often loners, existing on the periphery of day-to-day life. Perhaps we may even foster their isolation because of our fears and our lack of understanding of such people.
In the Gospel, we hear of four friends tearing a hole in the roof of a place where Jesus was preaching, so that they could bring their paralyzed friend on a stretcher before Jesus for healing. Jesus heals the man because of the faith of his friends. One of the most healing forces in the world is another human being
who can listen with patience and with love, and who responds with what his faith tells him at that time. The Church is called to be a society of true friends who care.
The tragedy in Florida awakens us to be more attentive and to take more initiative to reach out to the ‘loners’ amidst us. May our Great Fast journey assist you and me to engage with others who may be needed to be brought closer to Jesus Christ for healing. May each of us have the courage to be a true Christian friend, setting aside our own pressing needs and fears as we see and respond to the needs of those we encounter on life’s journey.
Metropolitan Stefan Soroka leads Catholics of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic rite in the United States.