“For the measure you give is the measure you get back”

by May Tam

This Sunday's Gospel reading is a continuation of last Sunday’s gospel message on the Beatitudes. Today, our Lord explains by means of examples how to live those challenging teachings. The charity that Jesus demands of His disciples is one of the deepest mysteries of Christianity. Jesus stresses the need to love (even one's enemies) to a heroic degree and He Himself has demonstrated it perfectly when He was on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). This call to be merciful is echoed by the very last words of our reading today: “For the measure you give is the measure you get back” (Lk 6:38).

In the Old Testament, God repeatedly revealed Himself, through both His deeds and His prophets, and that He is a merciful god (rf Ex 34:6-7, Jon 4:2, Nm 14:18, Na 1:3, Mi 7:18, Jl 2:13, Neh 9:17, Jer 3:12, Dt 5:9). His mercy is often exhorted by the palmists as prayers of thanksgiving and prayers of petition (rf Ps 4:1, 6:2, 9:13, 25:16, 27:7, 30:10, 31:9, 51:1, 86:15-16, 123:3, 145:8-9). They acknowledged what God had done and pleaded Him to do the same at present and in the future. The motivation of demanding mercy is the imitation of God, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Jesus is the exemplar of mercy. (rf Mt 15:22, 17:15, 20:30, Lk 17:13, 18:13, Mk 10:46). He is the starting point and the model from whom imitation proceeds.

Yet to be merciful does not imply inactivity or indifference. There are instances when a person must judge another as in cases of fraternal correction or in the exercising of temporal authority (rf Lk 17:3-4, Rom 13:1-5). However, these judgments should be done with good intentions and for the benefits of others. Human judgment may fall short and only God can judge with fairness. He alone can fathom the recesses of the human heart. Therefore, as Jesus' disciples, we are to be slow in judging but quick in forgiving.

While it is seemingly impossible to do as Jesus told us, with the aid of divine grace and our own experience of encountering God's mercy, let us first ask Him to help us to habitually exercise self-criticism and the recognition of the goodness in others; then humbly call upon His mercy to mold our hearts lest we would be blind to our own faults.