Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C (2019)
Some years ago, early in his pontificate, Pope Francis made a simple statement that got a lot of attention. "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?"
Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: no teacher would grade a student's performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account.
And, when you come to think of it, nobody would ever forgive anyone for wrongs he had done; we only forgive people for what we blame them, and we blame them only after we have judged them.
“Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”
On the surface, to our modern ear, this is one of the strangest things Jesus said. But to any of you out there who are woodworkers or carpenters, Jesus makes perfect sense.
How is it that we find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, but we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope. We easily spot a speck of phoniness in another, because we have an over-abundance of it in our own lives.
In other words, Jesus was saying the reason some people are so proficient at finding fault in the lives of others is because they are so familiar with it themselves. They can spot certain things in another person’s life because they are guilty of the same sin—in probably a greater capacity.
And is there any better example of this than that video showing a bunch of kids from a Catholic high school in Covington, Kentucky who were attending the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and a Native American Vietnam vet who playing a drum. If you don’t know about this. Google it.
Look, I make judgments ever day. I have to judge whether one of my employees is doing the job for which she was hired. I have to judge whether a volunteer has the necessary skills and temperament to work with children. I have to judge whether an engaged couple is adequately prepared to get married.
In other words, in each of these situations, I have to make a reasonable determination, based on facts as to what I should do or not do in any given situation.
This kind of “judging” is not sinful. This has nothing to do with what Jesus is warning us not to do. In fact, to abdicate my responsibility to make prudent judgments in each of these examples would be immoral.
If you had facts and evidence that a mother was not providing a healthy environment for her children, and said to yourself, “Who am I to judge?” It’s none of my business. Your decision to do nothing, would be dangerous, irresponsible and gravely sinful.
I’ve heard stories of priests who would stop the Mass dead in its tracks if anyone dared to come to church late. The shame and embarrassment were punishment for being tardy.
Now, this is an example of a rash judgement based on zero evidence that this family was lazy, disorganized, or careless about what time Mass started and their responsibility to be prompt.
What if, for example, the baby threw up it’s breakfast? Or their car didn’t start? Or a tree fell across the road? Would anyone dare judge this family for being late to Mass?
The point of judging others is not to condemn someone, but to restore someone. When we make judgments, we must do so humbly, prudently, and reasonably. And we must do so with the intent of helping our brother or sister escape from sin and the destruction it wreaks, not to elevate ourselves on the moral high ground of hypocrisy.
And remember, everything we judge in others is very often something within ourselves we don’t want to face.