The assigning of blame has been one of humanity’s prime defense mechanisms for millennia. We see it in the ancients, and we see it today. We see it in ourselves, and in one another. I’ve been witnessing it in the chat feeds as the president and senate hold their briefings. I observe it in Facebook posts, video feed pundits and our chattering replies. I notice it surface like lightning in myself even toward someone I love, judging them when they’re at their worst, rather than remembering who they really are at their core.
This Lenten season I have been guided by a simple, yet beautiful, magazine written by the Oblate Community of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, a community of which I belong. Over the weekend, three of the reflections and readings gripped my attention. But it was Luke 18:9-14 that really stood out. To refresh your memory, this is the parable directed toward those “who were confident that they were upright while despising everyone else.”
A self-righteous leader is at center stage, standing up straight and praying, you guessed it, about himself: “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of mankind - rapacious, unjust, adulterous - or even like this tax-collector.” Off in the corner in striking contrast, an often vilified tax collector stands, with face turned toward earth, beating his humble heart while praying, “God grant me mercy, for I am a stalled human being and fully bear the burden of the shame of my own incompleteness.”
As I read my fellow oblate’s reflections below I felt myself addressed, because in part, I am both the blamed and the blamer. Listen to their wise and sensitive words:
We cannot love when we keep resentment in our heart.
Why do we view our opinion as “right” or say “we know” when truly we don’t?
When we judge people, we place them in a box.
When we encounter another, do we seek to understand the other person without stereotypes?
We tend to judge others on their worst day and cease to see the whole of their lives.
During this moment when fear can give license to aggression, judgement, blame and self-inflated righteousness, what if we learned to examine our own hearts and seek mercy, rather than blame?
(Thanks to fellow Oblates Cora Veza, Michelle Blalock and Rick Tomsick for their sensitive reflections along with a few of my glosses on the parable thanks to Michael Casey and David Bentley Hart)