Now is the Time of Judgment

(Homily for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B)
A personal confession: This homily is about divine and human judgment. While we can count on God's judgment, we should always be skeptical of our own. My brothers recently dug up a letter I wrote around thirty years criticizing one of them for spending a couple hundred dollars on a dog. Since I got a puppy last year, I have had to eat those word!

On this final Sunday before Holy Week, Jesus announces that the crucial moment has arrived:

"Now is the time of judgment..."

We are familiar with judgment, both formal and informal. A jury makes a formal judgment after hearing all the available evidence. Usually on the basis of much less evidence, we are constantly making informal judgments. We say things like, “What a liar!” or “How could he do something so lousy?”

The current war on Iraq is not only about winning, but about judgment. Is this war justified? Or more simply: Is it a just war? Although each of us has probably formulated some opinion, we have not seen all the evidence. For example, if the coalition forces capture large amounts of biochemical weapons, it will greatly affect people’s judgment on this war.

Most Americans considered that joining the war against Germany was justified, even noble. When the scope of Hitler’s atrocities came to light, it reinforced that conclusion. However, the justification of other wars was not so clear. Many thoughtful people (including a young congressman named Abraham Lincoln) questioned the 1846 war against Mexico.

Human judgment is always limited and therefore open to debate. None of us sees the total picture. The fact that we sometimes react violently when someone questions our good sense only underscores that fragility. If a guy has to bully or sulk, it shows he is not very confident about his ability to form a sound opinion.

Jesus warns against judging ones neighbor. This is very good advice. Our estimates of other people not only tend to miss the mark - they often damage and infuriate. For sure, we might have an office (parent, priest, teacher, supervisor, etc.) which requires evaluations of those for whom we are responsible. Otherwise we should treat idle judgments like “bad thoughts.” Get them out of your mind by focusing on something positive. They will only bring you frustration and harm. “Comparisons are odorous,” said Shakespeare. And what is a comparison except the rating of one person against another?

Even though human judgment is often repugnant, Jesus nevertheless reminds us that true judgment does exist. In our Profession of Faith, we recognize that Jesus will “come again to judge the living and the dead.” When I examine my conscience, more than heaven or hell, the thought of judgment fixes my attention. As the Catechism says:

The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time, . . . the day of salvation." It inspires a holy fear of God and commits them to the justice of the Kingdom of God. It proclaims the "blessed hope" of the Lord's return, when he will come "to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed." (1041)

But the Judgment of Jesus is not just a future event. It has already come upon us.

"Now is the time of judgment..."

Jesus makes clear what the judgment involves. He speaks about being “lifted up.” Lest anyone miss the point, John adds: “He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.” The judgment is the cross.

When we made our parish novena to the Infant of Prague, I explained the statue to our children. In his left hand Jesus holds a blue globe. As God he sustains the world. On top of the globe is small cross. Those of us on this planet are either moving toward the cross or trying to get away from it. By the direction we take, we bring about our own judgment.

With an analogy drawn from nature, Jesus said the same thing in response to some Greeks who desired to meet him:

Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains just a grain of wheat;
but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
Whoever loves his life loses it,
and whoever hates his life in this world
will preserve it for eternal life.
Whoever serves me must follow me,
and where I am, there also will my servant be.
The Father will honor whoever serves me. (Jn 12: 24-26)


Versión Castellana

From the Archives (Fifth Sunday of Lent, Year B):

2015: New Mind and Heart Week 5
2012: To Know the Lord
2009: A Matter of Life and Death
2006: Your Judgment on the World
2003: Now is the Time of Judgment
2000: We Would Like to See Jesus

Year A (RCIA):
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 5 (2014)
Revive (2011)
Overcoming Power of Death (2008)
Joining Body with Soul (2005)
He Was Buried (2002)
On Confession and Cremation (1999)

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