7th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - C Cycle - 2003-2004
First Reading - 1 Samuel 26:2,
7-8, 12-13, 22-23
Psalm - 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13
Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Gospel - Luke 6:27-38
Luke writes to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Jesus said to his disciples: "To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other one as well, and from the person who takes your cloak, do not withhold even your tunic. Give to everyone who asks of you, and from the one who takes what is yours do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
We heard in our Gospel today, "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned." If you look through the Scriptures, you will be hard-pressed to find two other lines on the sacred page that are more misunderstood and misapplied than these two lines I just read.
two lines of Scripture form the Creed of a very insidious mindset in our society
today - that is, a total distaste for anyone who dares to declare certain human
actions as being either moral or immoral. It's an aversion to making any
type of moral judgment on any human act or attitude. If you thought there
were only 10 commandments - look again, because the 11th commandment of this new
mindset is "Thou shall not judge." Here's what those who themselves
condemn anyone who would dare to pass judgment on others would have us believe:
1. First, no one has the right to declare certain human actions as right or wrong - individuals should be able to decide what's right for them. Thus, every moral judgment is relative to the individual person's feelings. In fact, one only can sin if one thinks that they've sinned.
2. Tolerance of all viewpoints and lifestyles is the prime virtue. Since individuals determine what truth is, anything is possible.
3. Since none of us is perfect, none of us has the right to judge others. Judging is intolerant and anyone who judges another is a hypocrite because nobody's perfect.
Sound familiar? This mindset is so prevalent in our society today, that I know many a faithful daily-Mass going Catholic who actually buys into at least part of this new Creed. So, how should we as Catholics understand these two lines from Scripture, "Stop judging and you will not be judged? Stop condemning and you will not be condemned?"
First, what the Lord is prohibiting here is two-fold:
• None of us can judge another person's state of soul - whether or not they are in mortal sin or not. We may be able to say that a person has committed a grave act, but we can't always know their intent and all of the circumstances surrounding the act.
• Neither can any of us judge whether or not a deceased person is in heaven, hell or purgatory - that kind of judgment is reserved for God alone. I remember a time very early in my first assignment; how a parishioner whose uncle I had just offered a funeral Mass for scolded me. She was furious because I had asked all present, especially the Catholics, to pray for her uncle as he may need our prayers as he makes his way to heaven since we cannot assume that he's in heaven and could use our prayerful assistance out of purgatory, all the while hoping that if he's not in heaven, that he would be there soon. She couldn't believe that I refused to declare her uncle as already enjoying heavenly bliss. I replied, "It is my duty as a Catholic to pray for the dead as I cannot judge where the deceased's soul has gone. If your uncle needs our prayers and you refuse because you assume he's in heaven, can you imagine how unhappy he will be to meet you when you die, knowing that your presumption caused him to languish in purgatory?" How quick we are to judge and canonize and presume to take God's place. Canonizing a deceased loved one can be an act of injustice and is a false way of "coping" with death for it leads us to believe that the moral quality of one's life is insignificant since everyone goes to heaven anyway.
So, what can we judge?
• We can and are obliged to judge external acts. First of all, we make all kinds of judgments all the time: in traffic; at the Olympics; within our legal system (which, by the way, judges intent to distinguish between murder one and manslaughter)
• There are so many folks out there who don't think that we even ought to judge external acts. A mother of a teenage son once expressed to me at how upset she was at how she really came down hard on her son and grounded him for a few weeks. When I asked her why he was grounded, she replied, "I found marijuana in his book bag and I later felt that I didn't have a right to judge him." I replied, "You fool! Are you kidding me? That doesn't make sense! If that's being judgmental, I'll live with it!" You see how insidious this mindset has become?
• The reason why we can judge external acts and intentions that are explicitly made clear to us is that we have access to objective truth known to us through revelation (Scripture and Tradition) and the natural law, inscribed onto the heart of every human person.
The world's "spirit of tolerance" is actually a spirit of intolerance. Why? The world won't tolerate you if you are intolerant of their error. Thus, they themselves become intolerant of your intolerance - total hypocrisy. When we are called judgmental for asserting that marriage was created by God as being between only a man and woman and must be open to life and authentic love-making, isn't it in fact the case that it is our critics who are intolerant of our views?
This new 11th commandment is often nothing more than code-language for attitudes such as, "Oh, I don't want to say anything because I'll be disliked for standing up for what's right." Or "Who am I to say anything - I've made mistakes too?" You might as well say, "I ought no longer to drive because I got caught speeding once!" My friends, the truth is not based on our ability or lack thereof to live up to it. The new 11th commandment is also conveniently invoked when persons who just don't care about the truth or justice want an "out." They figure that as long as it's legal, it's moral and if it's not even legal, then as long as you don't get caught, it's fine.
So, it's clear that we need to judge - judging external behavior and intentions when they are made known to us is quite acceptable and often necessary for moral living because it's the only way we can stand up for what is right and repel evil in the world. We also need to have courage in standing up for what is right and yet judge with a spirit of compassion and mercy that empathizes with the sinner but does not tolerate the sin. We need to be able to reach out to fellow sinners with a spirit of desiring their conversion, not merely winning arguments or simply "being right." If our judgments are not made in a spirit of compassion, then we're missing the whole point. It is only when we can judge with compassion that we will desire the Lord to measure out to us what we have measured out to others.
be Jesus Christ. Now and forever!
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