You Will Not Be Judged

(Homily for Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C)

A few decades ago, some Seattle parishes were trying to institute a congregational model of governance. It involved – among other things – the parish council interviewing a priest before he became pastor. I was with Fr. Mike Holland when he underwent such an interview. After explaining the various works of the parish and listening to Fr. Mike’s history, the council president asked, “Would you be willing to be periodically evaluated by parishioners?”

Fr. Mike paused, put on a smile and replied, “I don’t think that is the right question. No matter what, people will evaluate me. The question is whether I want to hear the evaluations.”

All of us – especially those with a public role – are constantly being evaluated. When Jesus said, “Stop judging and you will not be judged,” he was not referring to that type of judgment. It is impossible not to evaluate or judge outward behavior and how it impacts others.*

However, there is a type of judgment we should avoid, the judging of motives, the judgment of the other person’s soul. Paradoxically, the problem with judging is not that we tend to be over harsh, but that none of us can really be harsh enough. Even the most dyspeptic – perhaps especially he – is unlikely to see the other’s worst failing – or his genuine goodness.**

In moments of sanity we recognize our own mixed motives - some of which would cause deep shame, if made public. The psalmist expressed fear of becoming an object of derision and he admits he does not see his own hidden faults. David (himself considered responsible for many Psalms) shrank from judging his fiercest enemy, as we see in today’s remarkable Old Testament reading.

A great work of literature can lay bare hidden aspects of our lives. The Glass Menagerie features a mother who seems very compassionate toward her handicapped daughter. But as the play unfolds, it exposes how she uses her daughter for her own gratification – in the process suffocating a grown woman. The drama rivets our attention because we see something of our own souls in the mother and daughter.

C.S. Lewis said that when thinking about death, what most helped him focus was not so much the thought of hell – but of judgment. The idea of being judged, of having ones soul laid bare, should give one pause. It may enable a person to hear Jesus’ warning:

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.”

To refrain from judging is hard, especially if the other person has hurt us or someone we love. A remarkable example of not judging was Maria Giuseppa Forgione, the mother of St. Pio. Her son, Padre Pio, was a source of great pride not only for herself, but also for the entire village of Pietrelcina. When certain people made accusations against him, resulting in loss of his priestly faculties, it stunned the town. Confused and hurt, Maria Giuseppa kept an embarrassed silence. Some townsfolk brought to her rumors against Padre Pio’s accusers. She would have none of it. “We can only know what is on the outside,” she said. “God alone can judge the heart.”

Do not judge. Do not even listen to rumors and gossip. Unless you have an office (teacher, priest, parent, etc.) that requires it, flee from judging any other person. Recognize your inability to penetrate the human heart – even your own.***

Stop judging and you will not be judged.


*A dramatic example: the John Jay Report on clergy sexual abuse of minors. One hopes the study (final report will be issued on February 27) will help answer some significant questions: Number of cases before and after Vatican II - and the "sex revolution"? What part of the abuse was genuine pedophilia and what part was homosexuality? Percentage of dioceses (like Seattle) that instituted protective measures and had no new cases since the late 80's? How does the Catholic Church compare with other institutions in terms of the scope of abuse and the response by authorities?

**We live in a romantic age which supposes that we are good if we have kindly feelings which others reciprocate. But consider: Hitler was quite thoughtful to his secretaries, always remembering them with little gifts. They in turn adored him - and helped him transmit decisions which would result in unspeakable cruelty toward millions of German subjects.

***Not that it takes any special ability to recognize ones sins. If one has lied, viewed pornography, born tales, missed Mass or dishonored ones parents, it usually takes only a few moments to recall. But even after making a good examination of conscience, there remains a mystery of evil - and good - which the human mind cannot apprehend. What seems huge, might not be so enormous and what seems small, might have great significance. In the Great Divorce a saint admits being a murderer, but notes that he had done far worse things such as holding a grudge. Dante has similar surpises in the Divine Comedy.

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Homilies for Seventh Sunday, Year C):

2007: Two Way to Avoid Judgment
2004: You Will Not Be Judged
2001: Stop Judging
1998: A Gallant Young Man

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Lent Schedule, Archbishop Brunett on Sexual Abuse Report)


Join the clubbed: Catholics know pain of being bashed by movie critic Richard Roeper

Shooting ourselves in the foot: Queer Film Fest at Notre Dame

Letter to Fr. Malloy

Clone & Kill in South Korea

Rabbi Daniel Lapin comments on The Passion

Information and Registration form for Fr. Corapi Conference (March 5-6, Holy Family, Seattle)

Retreat at Brigittine Monastery

Archbishop Mpalanyi: The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not for sale

Vatican: Church must work with scientific experts to prevent abuse:

The 220-page report, "Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church: Scientific and Legal Perspectives," represents the Vatican's first comprehensive effort to examine recent research into the psychological causes and types of abuse, screening procedures, recidivism rates, effects on child victims and the possibility of successful therapy for abusers...

The scientific experts, all of them non-Catholics working in the fields of psychiatry, psychology and psychotherapy, appeared to agree unanimously that "zero tolerance" goes too far. They said it effectively prevents troubled priests from seeking help before they commit abuse, removes leverage with abusive priests to accept treatment, can leave priests emotionally devastated, and effectively passes responsibility for an abusive priest on to the larger society -- where there is less monitoring and supervision of his behavior...

Dr. Martin Kafka, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School, said he thought homosexuality was not a cause of sex abuse but a "likely risk factor" that deserves further study. He said that in comparison with the general population abuse cases in the church are disproportionately those of homosexual male adults who molest adolescent males.

Did John Kerry Lie About Abortion?

Can Gay Marriage Save Haiti? (by a Seattle boy who blames Bush for all problems including his mother's broken fan belt. Warning: swear words.)


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