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.
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."
After two centuries of schism, the story of the ten northern tribes comes to a fiery end with their capital city, Samaria, stormed and captured by the Assyrians. The people left alive after the three year siege are marched into exile and historical oblivion. By this stern judgment of God, most of Abram's descendants, ten out of the twelve tribes, were suppressed by a gentile nation for whom they were supposed 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 mystery of divine providence cannot be presented in any simple way that would explain why some are chosen and others seem unchosen. At times the question is squarely faced in the Bible – for instance in today's reading from 2 Kings ?without the answer being utterly persuasive. Yes, the northern tribes did not keep God's commandments; but neither did the remaining tribe of Judah. And while Jerusalem, their capital, was razed to the ground (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. Humble people will not lose the promised land, 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, warts and all, and, indeed, loving ourselves, warts and all, is a good basis for relating to 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. Jesus was no doubt aware that addressing our own failings is a much more demanding task than addressing the failings 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. [MH].