How critical are you?
Even good people get criticized. If you ever read the Scriptures, you can’t help but realize how devastating constant criticism of someone can be. In fact, in the Scriptures it seems that the better the person is, the more often and cruelly they are criticized!
Have you ever read the Book of the prophet Jeremiah? There can be little doubt that he was a good person. In fact, he stands out as one of the very best. Yet, as Jeremiah tells his story, he often laments the constant criticism he is receiving from so many of his peers, especially the religious leaders of his time. He comes to the realization that they are not only critical of him but are even “hatching plots against me.” The religious leaders set out to destroy Jeremiah’s reputation and ultimately, by their false testimony about him and constant harping against him, got him thrown into prison. No doubt they were pleased that they had destroyed his reputation and forced him out. Ironically, it was Jeremiah’s vision and witness that sustained the people of Israel during their darkest experiences of defeat and exile.
If we think Jeremiah got a raw deal, it seems that Jesus was treated even more cruelly during his short life. When Jesus first began his ministry at the age of 30, he was hailed by those who heard him as “one of the prophets” or perhaps “the Christ.” But soon enough the comments and speculations descended into bickering about where he’s from (Galilee? Bethlehem?), who his parents are, whether he is of the royal line of David, etc., etc.! The arguments grow more truculent and the enemies of Jesus grow more determined when the soldiers refuse to arrest Jesus when ordered to do so. Clearly, the chief priests and the Pharisees continue to malign Jesus and soon plan his destruction. And destroy him they do. It is only the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that overcomes those who ridiculed him so viciously.
It may be me, but it seems that there is a lot of criticism bandied about these days. Political leaders, church leaders, local community leaders, members of school boards, parishioners and fellow citizens all seem to be fair targets for someone. Accusations and denunciations are made with little or no concern about whether they are true. The more scandalous or scurrilous the charges the more play they are given in the media, on the internet or over the back fence. Few seem to worry about the impact the gossip has on not only the people targeted but also their families and friends.
It was this same kind of toxic atmosphere that ultimately imprisoned Jeremiah and killed Jesus. It would seem that as Catholic Christians who know the stories of Jeremiah and Jesus so well, we would refuse to enter into the free-flowing game of criticizing those around us, whether they be family, personal friends, or local and national leaders. Yet, we have to admit that sometimes we seem to forget that Christ’s call to love one another is the true path for us.
How critical am I of the people around me? Of local or national leaders? Of Church leaders? Of the people I love?
Do I let the gossip I hear diminish my respect for others?
Does Christ’s challenge to love everyone in our lives affect the way I talk about others?
The boundaries are everywhere,
Predefined seats, untouchable yet unwritten thrones.
Predispositions on the menu again,
Reinforced by glances, concealing the glare which lies below.
Others gossip seemingly unaware of the bully present,
Now beating the minds and souls of those who do not share the secret,
Shamefully, the crowd cries out in the Colosseum,
Rises and lowers a thumb to encourage the execution.
As the poison is injected into an unknowing soul.
Again and Again.
© 2019 Reflection by Michael Higgins, C.P.
© 2019 Poem and Photography by Michael J. Cunningham O.F.S.