Once a guy ran into an old friend. He was amazed because the last time he saw his friend, the man was overweight and now he was quite slim. After a few pleasantries, he asked: "How did you lose so much weight?" The other said, "It was easy. I did it by avoiding arguments." "What?" He said, "That's crazy!. No one can lose weight by not arguing. It's impossible." The other gently replied, "You are right. It is impossible."
That is what you call a subtle joke. You have think about it. Anyway, I donít know if avoiding arguments will help a person lose weight. But in the Gospel today Jesus speaks about avoid conflicts - and he gives a very radical teaching. He tells us to love our enemies, to do good to those who harm us. Then he gives three very difficult sayings: "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven."
How can we live this teaching? Letís face it. People are always doing things which are thoughtless and self-centered. It is hard not to judge or criticize others. To understand this teaching, we need to make a clarification.
Some people, because of their office, are required to make certain judgments: for example, a police officer, a teacher or a parent. I heard about a young man who said to his mom, ďMa, why donít you like my friends? What have you got against my drinking buddies? Donít be so judgmental.Ē The response is ďIím your mother. Itís my job to be judgmental.Ē
There are of course limits. Thatís what Jesus talks about today. Unless it is part of specific duty in guiding some other person, you should avoid judgments or criticism. Judge not and you will not be judged. When you are tempted to judge or criticize, think about the judgment on you. St. Augustine said that the only way we can stop focusing on the other personís sin is by remembering our own. It is not a question of being scrupulous. It is simply a matter of honesty. How is it I can see the other personís fault so clearly? Could it be because I have a similar fault in me? No doubt you have noticed that when one points a finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at oneself.
"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." A remarkable example of this has emerged from the life of Ronald Reagan. Those of us of a certain age remember March 30, 1981 when a gunman attacked President Reagan outside a hotel. He fired six shots, wounding the president and three others. When Reagan was wheeled into the operating room, he had an image of the gunman crouching in the darkness. The image filled him with a terrible rage. But Reagan thought, ďI could die in this room. How can I expect God to forgive me if I cannot forgive that man.Ē Reagan did recover and later he tried to visit John Hinckley, but he was in a psychiatric hospital and the doctors said the visit would not help his recovery.
This example gives us an indication of what Jesus wants us to do when anger overcomes us. Try to distinguish the evil act from the person who committed it. Remember oneís own sin - and that if I do not forgive the other person, I will not be able to receive Godís forgiveness.
This is not easy. Fortunately this week we begin a season which focuses on forgiveness. On Wednesday we will receive ashes on our foreheads as a sign of repentance. We will have forty days to reflect on Godís mercy and how he wants us to extend it to others. "Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven."
From Archives (Homilies for Seventh Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Ash Wednesday, Lenten Confessions, Archdiocesan Day of Reconciliation & Cathedral Walk)