This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Reading 1, 2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18
5 The king of Assyria invaded the whole country and, coming to Samaria, laid siege to it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah on the Habor, a river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.7 This happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, 8 they followed the practices of the nations which the Lord had dispossessed for them.
13 And yet through all the prophets and the seers, the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my laws in accordance with the entire Law which I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’
14 But they would not listen, they were as stubborn as their ancestors, who had no faith in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his laws and the covenant which he had made with their ancestors and the warnings which he had given them. Pursuing futility, they themselves became futile through copying the nations round them, although the Lord had ordered them not to act as they did. 18 Because of which, the Lord became enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. The tribe of Judah was the only one left.
This is a pretty good summary of the theology of the historians who wrote the books of the Kings: God will bless the people if they are faithful to Him and his Laws; but he will punish and destroy them if they are unfaithful in worship or practice. The disastrous history of a tiny nation struggling to survive is attributed to the wrath of God.
It’s difficult to hold such a theology today, especially because it was never intended for general consumption but only for Israel, chosen and blessed by God. Another difficulty is that God is depicted as the puppet master, pulling the strings of international conflicts to bless or punish his people. We are more likely to see world politics as the product of human and natural forces.
Nevertheless, the narratives tell us one thing which is unpalatable to modern taste: it matters who you worship. The worship of idols is destructive. Churches can and should see themselves as communities in which people can, if they choose, learn to worship God alone. In that task, a church should be as critical of its own as it is of society’s idols.
Gospel, Matthew 7:1-5
1 ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; 2 because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you. 3 Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own? 4 And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own? 5 Hypocrite! Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.
“The standard you use will be the standard used for you.” That is a truly terrifying statement.
When I think of people I’ve casually dismissed, treated as idiots because they didn’t share my views, viewed with unjust suspicion, condemned for faults of which I am also guilty, vilified because they frightened me, people I’ve judged, I should be very afraid of the judgement I’ll receive.
Jesus’ comic cuts character, who is meticulous about the eyesight of others while having a great log sticking out of his own, is too like me to be wholly funny.