December 11: Avoiding Superficiality

Published December 11, 2015 by Unprodigal Daughter

Friday

Have you ever come across a stranger that you thought might be crazy, so you avoided them? When you were younger, did you ever alienate a classmate because he or she was different? What about today? Is there someone you work with, pray with, etc. that you try not to speak to because you think he or she is strange?

We’ve all done some version of this in our lives. When you were a kid, I am sure someone in your life told you “Jesus says we are to love everyone, but that doesn’t mean we have to like everybody.” It is true that some personalities will clash, even among holy people. St. Paul and St. Peter are forever portrayed side by side but did not agree on issues of the Church when they were living. They probably had difficulties getting along because they did not see eye to eye, but they interacted peacefully, nonetheless.

There are many other instances like Paul and Peter where people overcome differences and work together. People have learned to “like one another” in addition to loving one another. For this reason, we should try to avoid limiting ourselves to people who we are comfortable around or who society deems “normal.” We might be missing out on a hidden treasure. 

In today’s Gospel, Matthew tells us that people thought that St. John the Baptist was possessed by a demon because he ate and drank very little. Matthew also notes that people judged Jesus and called him a glutton and a drunkard. These facts probably made many people judge the two of them, and as a result, avoid them.

We know now that Jesus was not a drunkard and that John was not possessed. But we also know that our Lord and one of his greatest prophets were sometimes treated like the kids in the cafeteria who do not interact with others because they are deemed “uncool.” Jesus and John did not conform to social standards, and for that, they were both killed.

When you see that person you avoid, try to think of Jesus and John the Baptist. Yes, that person has an unusual way of talking/dressing/eating/living, but that is the extent of it. It is simply unusual. It does not tell us about who they are, what they believe in, and how they love. 

If you strike up a conversation with them, maybe just for five minutes, you may find that they are a very delightful person. You may be the person that brightens their day, or they might help you with yours. The point is that if we judge people for superficial reasons, we miss out on a chance for Christian fellowship.

Appearances are not always correct, so we have to take the time to look at someone’s heart before we make a decision on what they are all about. We would not want to dismiss someone like Jesus was dismissed, and as a result never learn from them.

Opening Prayer

Gracious God, it’s sometimes hard for us to understand or accept or love those who are different from us. We find ourselves wanting to change them so that they fit our accepted patterns. We know that the difference between us need not separate us, but our lack of understanding makes us want to stay within the safety of our own perceptions rather than embrace what seems foreign. Give us curiosity of mind so that we are open to the perspectives that others can offer us. Help us see the similarities that bind everyone together. Give us the courage to freely enter another’s experience in order to find you in a surprising new way. We ask this for the sake of your love. Amen.

(taken from http://www.explorefaith.org/prayer/prayer/prayers_for_living/accepting_differences.php)

Daily Readings

Reading 1: IS 48:17-19

Thus says the LORD, your redeemer,
the Holy One of Israel:
I, the LORD, your God,
teach you what is for your good,
and lead you on the way you should go.
If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.

_________________________
Responsorial Psalm: PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life.

____________________________

Gospel: MT 11:16-19

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

_______________________

Multimedia

The consequences of not passing judgment spread farther than just the relationship with the person you are befriending. You are setting an example by your actions, and that can have a profound rippling effect on the people around you. This clip, while not about superficiality and passing judgment, demonstrates what happens when you set an example for others and go out of your way to be loving.

Additional Activity

Advent activities do not need to be seasonal. Hopefully you find a practice you like that you can carry on throughout the year. For today’s activity, select a quote from below (or choose your own) pertaining to judgment of others, and put it somewhere where you will see it everyday as as a spiritual practice to help you judge others less.

“We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have traveled from the point where they started.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

“If you didn’t grow up like I did then you don’t know, and if you don’t know it’s probably better you don’t judge.” ― Junot Díaz

“Can you look without the voice in your head commenting, drawing conclusions, comparing, or trying to figure something out?” ― Eckhart Tolle

“In case of dissension, never dare to judge till you’ve heard the other side.” ― Euripides

“One reason we rush so quickly to the vulgar satisfactions of judgment, and love to revel in our righteous outrage, is that it spares us from the impotent pain of empathy, and the harder, messier work of understanding.” ― Tim Kreider

“God has judged me all my life. But that is God’s privilege, my lady. Not yours.” ― Barbara Hambly

“You must first of all think justly. Don’t sit in judgment over others when you don’t know the truth of the matter.” ― Pramoedya Ananta Toer

“We inhabit a world in which we tend to put labels on each other and expect that we will then march through life wearing them like permanent sandwich boards.” ― Nick Webb

“Judgment…is one of the ego’s tools to foster separation through comparison.”
― Peter Santos

“In a few seconds, we judge another person and think we know them. When, the person we’ve lived with the longest, we still don’t know very well—ourselves.” ― Charles F. Glassman

“Live a good life. More smiling, less worrying. More compassion, less judgment. More blessed, less stressed. More love, less hate.”
― Roy Bennett

(taken from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/judgment?page=4)

Closing Prayer

John 4:19: “We love because he first loved us.”

Jesus, you are the author and originator of love. We only know love because you are love and you loved us first. You love us specifically and sacrificially. You love us in our sin and rebellion against you. You love us despite the pain we inflict on others. You love us in our mess. It is that love – that selfless, self-sacrificing love, which allows us to love others. It is an overflow of your love for us that allows us to love other people. Jesus, we ask you to make us better lovers of one another. Would you give us the heart and love to proclaim your love to those who need to hear it?

(taken from http://www.rachbaxter.com/2015/02/12-prayers-for-loving-one-another.html)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: