I know you’re about to judge me: “should I listen to Father or should I read the bulletin?” We are constantly making judgments. Recently when I was returning the Pro Life march somebody pointed out to me that we now have a new state motto on the signs that welcome people to Pennsylvania. Instead of saying “Welcome to the Keystone State (or whatever it used to say)”, it now says, “Pennsylvania. Pursue your happiness.” Supposedly this is from the Constitution, but I think there’s a deeper reality going on here: relativism. One thing which you might have heard is this one: “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.”(cf. Luke 6:27-38). This is often thrown in the face of people who try to call people away from a sinful situation. “Don’t judge me! Jesus said don’t judge! Aren’t you a christian?”
It’s always important to read scripture in context. In the next breath Jesus says, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” If the person has done nothing wrong, what is there to forgive? Jesus is reminding us of a very important fact: God is the ultimate judge because God knows what is in the person’s heart. Yet that does not mean that a person living a sinful life is not to be called to conversion. Our Lord is warning about RASH judgment. In other words, judging our neighbor’s actions without all the facts. We don’t judge out of spite, but we make judgments in order to help the person’s salvation.
We have to be careful about rash judgment which is the core of our Lord’s warning here. A prime example of this is the incident of the high school boys after the pro life march. The whole Covington Catholic saga is a prime example. The first video seemed to show something entirely different from the whole truth, and sadly many fell for it, even making death threats against the teenage boys. It’s so easy in our day and age to fall prey to this rash judgment without getting the facts. So we certainly have to be very careful to find out the facts before making any kind of judgment.
One of the documents of the Second Vatican Council clearly puts this:
“This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.(10) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone” (Gaudium et Spes, 28).
We love the sinner, and hate the sin-we cannot be indifferent to truth and goodness. It takes effort to fraternally correct a loved one. Often we must suffer for it. We desire the salvation of all, and so to stand silent in face of evil is really to do what our Lord counsels us not to do: to condemn. For by our silence we say “yes, this evil is good”. Then we too are brought into the sin by our silent approval. Love IMPELS us to speak the truth, to call others to the right path. Error always merits rejection. The person must be loved and treated with respect.
If Jesus doesn’t want us to call each other lovingly back to the right path, it wouldn’t make sense that two of the spiritual works of mercy are instructing the ignorant and admonishing the sinner. If you or I know somebody who is on the wrong path, who is living opposed to the Gospel, we have a call from the Lord to pray and to evangelize that person. Ask why the person is doing such and such to find out what the person knows. Then pray to the Holy Spirit to speak the truth in love to that person. We don’t allow our emotions to get in the way. We make judgments all the time: it would not be prudent to wear shorts in winter weather or to go drag racing through Richland when the snow and ice are coming down.
The culture wishes to silent the conscience of people, and so this idea of relativism is becoming very popular: my truth is different from your truth, so don’t judge me. A person who tries very honestly to be very close to Jesus in the sacramental life and living the moral life as clearly taught by the Church is like a lightning rod. A married couple open to life is often mocked and even given pressure by doctors to oppose life for example. Contraception and sterilization are a grave sin,as they are opposed to the love between husband and wife and the life giving nature of God within marriage. Don’t forget our Lord’s promise of reward for those who are persecuted for His sake.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola offers us some helpful advice:
“Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.” (Spiritual Exercises, 22, as quoted in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2478)
So we have a duty, a call from our Lord to call those around us to the life of virtue, of chastity, of right living-living life according to the 10 commandments. To find out from the person concerned what his level of understanding is. Does he know that his actions are sinful? As Saint Ignatius reminds us, there is a duty to correct with love and to use all suitable means to help the other understand properly. The commandments, the words of our Lord are the basis of our moral decisions, not emotion, family ties, or approval by the culture. What happens if we allow the culture to be the moral guide for us? The demographic winter is no surprise: one statistic is that 88% of Catholics use contraception, which is objectively a mortal sin. Society now views sinful homosexual activity as normal. Marriage is treated as basically an excuse for a big party for a day. Breakdown in families, no fault divorce, epidemic levels of addictions to drugs and pornography among men and women. The normalization of infanticide. That is the fruit of a society that says “do not judge me. Let me live MY life”.
Our Lord is calling us to heroic heights of sanctity. The root cause of the culture of death is a death of the spiritual life: a forgetfulness that after this life there is a judgment for our actions in this life and either eternal life with God in Heaven or eternal life apart from God in hell.
If we are drawing closer to our Lord in the Sacraments: regular confession, daily prayer, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, coming to Mass often-not just on Sundays, praying the Rosary everyday, struggling to live holy purity in our state in life, we will be given the peace, the wisdom, the strength for this battle. Then we will be able to clearly answer the modern day rebuke of “who are you to judge?” Our answer comes with the army of heaven on our side. So don’t pursue your happiness. Follow Jesus instead, and true happiness that wells up into eternal life will be found. Yes, it’s the narrow rugged way that leads to the cross, but our Lord conquers death and sin on the cross. That’s the road we must walk if we seek eternal life with God in Heaven.