Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria; for three years he besieged it. In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria captured Samaria; he carried the Israelites away to Assyria. He placed them in Halah, on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
This occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They had worshipped other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had introduced.
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law that I commanded your ancestors and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets." They would not listen but were stubborn, as their ancestors had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their ancestors, and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false; they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do as they did. Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.
O God, you have rejected us and broken our defenses;
you have been angry; rally us! (R./)
You have rocked the country and split it open;
repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.
You have made your people feel hardships;
you have given us stupefying wine. (R./)
Have not you, O God, rejected us,
so that you go not forth, O God, with our armies?
Give us aid against the foe,
for worthless is the help of men. (R./)
Jesus said to his disciples,
"Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbour's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."
Two centuries after breaking away from the Jerusalem monarchy, the independence of the ten northern tribes was quashed when their capital city, Samaria, fell to the fierce Assyrians. The people left alive after the ordeal of a three year siege were marched into exile and oblivion. By this stern nemesis, most of Abram's descendants, ten out of the twelve tribes, were subdued by the gentiles for whom they were meant to be a blessing. Yet, in the gospel we are told not to judge others. Is God, we wonder, above his own law of compassion and forgiveness?
The insoluble question of biblical faith is why some are chosen and others seem unchosen. At times the question is raised, for instance in today's reading from 2 Kings, without the answer being persuasive. Yes, the northern tribes had broken God's commandments; but neither had the surviving tribe of Judah been faithful to the covenant. And while Jerusalem, their capital, was later destroyed (2 Kings 25) they survived the Babylonian exile and became a remnant group who rebuilt the Holy City and prepared for the coming of the Messiah.
The underlying message is that humble people will not lose the promised land forever. They never lose the divine blessing, for God always remembers his promise in their regard. The humble find their strength in God and then show kindliness towards the neighbour, at God's call.
We can imagine Jesus smiling as he uses the image of someone with a plank in their eye struggling to take a splinter out of someone else's eye. Humour can be a disarming way of conveying an uncomfortable truth. Jesus is drawing attention to the human tendency to be more aware of the faults of others than of one's own. An awareness of our own failings keeps us humble.
Knowing ourselves and loving ourselves, warts and all, helps us empathise with others. Knowing our limitations, our weaknesses, we then try to work on them, as best as we can. Jesus is saying in today's gospel that working on our own failings should be a higher priority for us than working on the failings of others.
He knew well that addressing our own failings is more harder than correcting the faults of others. Hence his challenging call in the gospel to look to ourselves first before looking to others. When we look to ourselves, however, we always do so with our eyes on the Lord. Indeed, we look to him before we look to ourselves, just as we look to ourselves before we look to others. The awareness of the Lord's love for us frees us to look at ourselves without anxiety and the Spirit of his love in our hearts empowers us to grow into his likeness more fully.
nowing ourselves and loving ourselves, warts and all, helps us empathise with others..