Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How Dare You Judge!

It is not often someone accuses you of being a sinner --- and then in your heart you hear God heartily agree with them.  It is a humbling event.
I perceive that the reason the Confession lines are short these days is largely due to be the fact that no one sees themselves as sinners.  I understand.  In their mind they act with good --- or at least reasoned --- intentions, and do not sin.  But God reads the intents of our hearts.
I guess this tome is a continuation of my discerning the meaning and depths of mercy, in this “Year of Mercy.”  The weekly bible study group I temporarily coordinate has spent the last month focusing on Scripture references to mercy, using a certain guidebook to help us, and we all agree that our reflections on Scripture in this area have not helped us too much.  There are so many references with so many nuanced meanings, which are described by so many Hebrew or Aramaic or Greek words --- all translated as “mercy” --- that it doesn’t blend together in a cohesive story, especially one culminating in an explanation for this Year of Mercy.  But for me, I think God has used this time to just get me thinking and praying about the subject of His mercy, and how I might reflect it in my life.  So a friend’s recent cry of: “How dare you judge” greatly focused my attention, for in my heart it was saying to me: “You have no mercy.”
Hearing those words that I was judging another I heard as saying I was sinning, but in truth at the time I didn’t think so.  But that night in prayer God opened my heart to the possibility (certainty??) that I was indeed judging and sinning --- and it was not my place to do so.
My initial action consisted of asking others to join me in prayer for a very ill relative, and when in sympathy I was later asked his status, I voiced my concerns/regrets that he had in some way neglected his health, contributing to his illness.  He is a good man.  My concern was perceived by a friend as judging his actions and how he chose to lead his life, for reasons of his own (which, in truth, I did not likely understand).  I didn’t immediately see my sin, but I was disturbed as I prayed to God to open my heart to furthering my journey along the ways that he would lead me.
His answer started as I read reflections on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the Rosary, wherein the child Jesus was presented to His Father in the Temple.  And I read this reflection of that event:
I offer My life to You.
That was what Jesus was doing then, but my thoughts slipped back to the day long ago when I said those same words myself to the Father, when my sister lay dying, and I offered my life for hers.  And God gave me a miraculous answer then, but on this night I found myself asking:  Would I say that same prayer now for my very ill relative; would I today offer my life for his?  And what about so many others in my life, people more in need of blessings than I, people more in need of coming to know this Jesus who I kneel before each night?  Would I offer my life for theirs?  And then I realized that in this Mystery I was reflecting upon, that is exactly what Jesus WAS doing.  He was offering His life, from its very beginnings for us, each of us.  I say I am trying to imitate Him, to be as he would have me be, but He clearly said to me:  “Judge not.”  He said humility is the foundation of charity.  He said if I am to love others, I must stop loving myself so much, and stop sinning.  And I heard Him.
This night I read this Psalm prayer that I have read so many times:
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy.
We are filled with contempt.
Indeed all too full is our soul
with the scorn of the rich,
with the proud man’s distain.
Psalm 123
I think I have almost always read those words as praying for mercy, since we are filled with contempt of the rich and the proud, or in other words as saying: “I am trying to be like you, Lord, have mercy on me.”  But tonight I read those same words in a different light.  The reason for praying for mercy, in those words, is because “We are filled with contempt” --- we are judging others.  And how are we judging?  We judge with “With the scorn of the rich” and “with the proud man’s distain.”  This prayer is saying that WE are the rich, judging others.  It says WE are the proud, distaining other’s actions --- “Tsk, tsk,” we say; we judge.  Like in my heart, where blinded I couldn’t see, I was judging my ill relative.
It was a bit later in the night when I read about Tuesday’s Gospel, and the words of Peter:
“Lord, how often must I forgive my brother
if he wrongs me?  As often as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “Not seven time, I tell you,
but seventy-seven times.”
(Mt 18:21-35)
And I read further in The Better Part how “This lesson is hard for us to learn.  We tend to resent not only willful offenses, but also innocent mistakes.”  We judge others.  And I read even further: “We often have less patience with our siblings, parents, spouses, children, or roommates than we do with strangers and acquaintances.”  And finally I read a reflection on what Jesus might say to us today: “You can count on my forgiveness … (but) pride keeps you from forgiving yourself.”
And still later I read in Divine Intimacy how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.  “If we hold some authority (or are blessed with some wisdom), we must remember that it has been given not to honor us, but for the service of others.”
Judge not.
This is a confusing subject that will trouble me for a while, I fear.  If we perceive something to be true and say it is true, is that a judgment?  It’s written that we are to judge the sin, not the sinner.  That seems so hard.  If a man says “killing someone is sometimes okay, if for a good reason” do we judge?  If that same may says “a good reason, like abortion” do we judge him?  It is hard to judge the sin, but not the sinner, to not confuse speaking against the words with speaking against the speaker of the words.  And a hidden distain is so often so hidden in our hearts we find it impossible to see, or not act out.  And that is a sin.  And that is where forgiveness comes in, where it MUST come in: “As we forgive those who trespass against us…”
I think I shall have much to confess at my next visit to Penance.  And then I know I shall sincerely resolve not to sin again.  And I know I will fail --- again.  It is a hard thing to put into a nice neat slot, and say to myself (as I always want to say):  “Well, I figured that out,” and just move on.
It is a blessing, I think, when someone calls us: “Sinner!”  I pray that Litany For Humility each night, “Deliver me, Jesus, from the desire of being honored; Deliver me, Jesus, from the fear of being humiliated.”  Despite my prayers, I still desire honor, I still fear humiliation.  I fear I still too easily sin.


  1. Tom, it's great to reflect as you have on the topic of judgement and mercy. It really is a very nuanced topic, and Satan loves to confuse our thoughts on it, especially in these days, as he seems to have confused the person who responded to your comment with condemnation.

    Oh, mercy on the drug addict that robs, steals, lies and shows no remorse, taking advantage of everyone within throwing distance. Yes mercy.

    However, look at St. Paul's condemnation of sinful behavior in his letters. Wow. Talk about harsh! If you were to say those exact words of St. Paul to someone today, you would get such backlash it isn't funny. The world today throws back the "do not judge!" dictum in the face of Christians, and we worry, oh no, am I sinning if I judge something wrong.

    I don't see how your comment was in all wrong or judgmental. It is an error to believe when Jesus tells us not to judge we must be passive about the evil we see around us. What it means is that we judge the actions as evil, but not the man. We sorrow at the sinfulness we all have, that the person had, since the consequences are now coming to fruition, and we note that, but we don't say, Oh that evil, damned man. We say, God have mercy on him and all us sinners who are destroying ourselves. God have mercy on him despite his sin.

    The bottom line for me is that we must look around and judge the actions of others as good or evil, not so that we can condemn them to hell, or note in a self satisfied way that they are reaping the harvest of their sinfulness (because often, there but for the grace of God go I). But rather our judgement serves to acknowledge and speak of the sorrow we feel that sin has hurt them, that they did not do good, and are now suffering. Noting the consequences is not judging their soul, but making note of how sin destroys us in so many ways, and finding a reason for compassion, since we all are heading for the same thing in one way or another.

    How foolish to ignore the effects of sin in our own lives, or in the lives of others. But Satan would silence us even with our own Scriptures.

    I would think a good internet search on what the Church Fathers said about judgement would be an excellent place to start. Bet you will find great insights there.

    Here's a pretty good article from the Archdiocese of Washington website:

    God bless, Tom ~ Fran

  2. Thank you, Fran. Too bad you don't live closer. I think it would be good to sit and talk to someone once in a while on complex matters, like these.