The Desert Way of Not Judging

Monday, January 3

Liturgical Readings: Psalm 110; Proverbs 3:1-12; James 4:11-17

Focusing on James 4:11-17

Read the scriptures out loud.

I have been reading about the Desert Mother and Fathers. These are people that left their cities when Christianity was decreed the religion of the land by the ruler Constantine. In making Christianity a non-option/non-choice, people were Christians in name only. This led to a time of great corruption for many reasons. These men and women fled to the deserts of Egypt and set up places (later called monasteries) where, in community, they sought stillness, solitude, loyalty to God, wisdom and holy lives. It was the way of the desert. People came to them for their wisdom and for help in their spiritual lives.

The desert is key in scriptures. To name a few instances: The desert is where John the Baptist prepared the way for people to follow Jesus; it is where Jesus endured temptation before He began His ministry and it is where the Israelites travelled for 40 years towards the promised land. Lots of analogies in these examples for sure. That’s just a short, simple background.

In the book, The Desert Mothers (Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness) by Mary C. Earle, I read about one of their very intentional spiritual practices: not judging the other. They insisted upon this. Let me quote a short piece here:

“In our society, where the judging of others is constantly encouraged and practiced, this refusal to judge seems almost absurd. The desert mothers based their insistent refusal to judge their neighbours on the merciful love of God revealed in Jesus. They perceived that God’s mercy encompasses all human failure and that if God is willing to be merciful, then so should we.”

The Desert Mothers believed that practicing this lack of judgment as a path towards loving God, loving self, and loving others was the way to have humility formed in them. I have often thought that humility is so beautiful, so powerful, steady and peaceful. I am drawn to practice this desert way of humility for 2021. Imagine when I realized that the reading for the first Monday of 2021 held this portion of James that calls us not to judge!

A prayer exercise is offered in the book which I will share with you:

You will need a large piece of paper along with crayons, coloured markers, or coloured pencils. Trace or draw a large circle, representing the earth. Sketch in your continent and the surrounding seas (this doesn’t have to be perfect; this is for the use of praying through the practice of drawing). As you sketch in the continents and the seas and colour them, reflect on love of God, love of neighbour, and love of yourself. Using whatever colour you wish, make a dot that represents you within this larger circle of life. Add the surrounding atmosphere, sun, moon, starts. When you have completed the drawing, place it where you can see it daily. Let it serve to invite you to pray: “Love of God, love of neighbour, love of myself.”

Keep track of where God’s mercy comes to you through another and give thanks for this mercy.

Notice when you extend mercy to another person. Where have you extended mercy, withheld judgment, acted kindly, initiated relief for another who might not have had a claim on your life? How do these noticings make you feel?

When have you been merciful with yourself? When have you forgiven yourself past mistakes and failures? When have you suspended your own self-judgment in deference to the love and mercy of God?

Closing Prayer: God of all mercies, draw me ever deeper into the mercy in which I live and move and have my being. Grant me the courage to have mercy on myself and on my neighbour. Deliver me from judging harshly. Gentle my heart, for Your love’s sake. Amen.

Scripture Readings for the rest of the week:

Tuesday, Jan. 5: Psalm 110; Proverbs 22:1-9; Luke 6:27-31

Wednesday, Jan. 6: Isaiah 60:1-6; Ephesians 3:1-12; Matthew 2:1-12

Thursday, Jan. 7: Psalm 29; 1 Samuel 3:1-21; Acts 9:10-19a

Friday, Jan. 8: Psalm 29; 1 Samuel 16:1-13; 1 Timothy 4:11-16

Saturday, Jan. 9: Psalm 29; 1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12; Luke 5:1-11

Sunday, Jan. 10: (The baptism of the Lord) Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 29; Acts 19:1-7; Mark 1:4-11

Photo by Lucas Newton - Unsplashed

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