Who am I to Judge?


The Readings for Monday, the 2nd Week of Lent (B2)

Nolite judicare, et non judicabimini
Judge not, and you shall not be judged

Thomas Aquinas, in his Catena Aurea (The Golden Chain) notes the following comments from the Fathers on this verse:

Ambrose: The Lord added, that we must not readily judge others, lest when conscious of guilt yourself, you should be compelled to pass sentence upon another.

Chrysostom: Judge not your superior, that is, you a disciple must not judge your master; nor a sinner the innocent. You must not blame them, but advise and correct with love; neither must we pass judgment in doubtful and indifferent matters, which bear no resemblance to sin, or which are not serious or forbidden.

Cyril: He here expresses that worst inclination of our thoughts or hearts, which is the first beginning and origin of a proud disdain. For although it becomes men to look into themselves and walk after God, this they do not, but look into the things of others, and while they forget their own passions, behold the infirmities of some, and make them a subject of reproach. 
Chrysostom: You will not easily find any one, whether a father of a family or an inhabitant of the cloister, free from this error. But these are the wiles of the tempter. For he who severely sifts the fault of others, will never obtain acquittal for his own. Hence it follows And you shall not be judged. For as the merciful and meek man dispels the rage of sinners, so the harsh and cruel adds to his own crimes. 
Gregory of Nyssa: Be not then rash to judge harshly of your servants, lest you suffer the like. For passing judgment calls down a heavier condemnation; as it follows, Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. For he does not forbid judgment with pardon. 

The Church Fathers go quite far in this teaching. St Maximus the Confessor says, “Interior freedom is not yet possessed by anyone who cannot close his eyes to the fault of a friend, whether real or apparent.”

Fr Olivier Clement, commenting on the above, says “‘Agapeic’ love is not aa sentimental whim or a physical attraction, both of which are doomed to fade away quickly, and anyway do not come at will. No. It is the awareness of God’s love for another person.” St Isaac of Nineveh adds “Spread you cloak over anyone who walks into sin and shield him.”

When the image of God is present before us (as it is in all persons) there is an easy way to not Judge: say to yourself, that person there is the image of God. I know this.  This person – me – is a sinner. I know this as well. I know that I am, as St Paul says, the foremost of sinners. That person, there, is the image of God. Venerate them.

I fail in this all the time, still: I am the only sinner I know. All others are Christ to me.
Bishop Robert Barron blogged this about a year ago

When you read the great evangelizing texts of the New Testament—the Gospels, the Epistles of Paul, the book of Revelation, etc.—you don’t get the impression that what their authors wanted you primarily to understand is sexual morality. Rather, they wanted you to know that the great story of Israel had come to its highpoint and that God, in the person of the crucified and risen Messiah, had come to reign as king of the world. God, redemption, the cross, the resurrection, Jesus the Lord, telling the Good News—these are the master themes of the New Testament. Again, please don’t misunderstand me: God impinges upon all aspects of life and therefore placing our sex lives under the Lordship of Jesus matters. But I fear that for so many people in the secular world today, religion is reduced to the policing of sexual behavior, and this is massively unfortunate.

To be fair, much of the secular world is involved, as well, in policing sexual behavior, albeit in other ways that Christians would. “Pelvic issues” and one’s attitude to them are a prime marker in our society and, as the Bishop comments, “this preoccupation with ‘the pelvic issues’ has served to undermine the work of evangelization.”

When Jesus says, “Do not judge” we are inclined, as a culture, to think of pelvic issues and she me want to say God doesn’t care who has sex with whom. But Jesus’ idea of non-judging cuts into the very core of our culture which judges all the time.

It is ok, say those on the right, to judge folks for their supposed sexual sins, or their lack of traditional morality. It is ok, say those on the left, to judge folks for their supposed hate or their lack of charity. It is ok, say those on the right, to judge folks for being “libtards”. It is ok, say those on the left, to judge folks for being “deplorables”.  To this all the Christian must say, “It’s not ok to Judge.” It is no less ok to judge for one’s sexual choices (which can, in the eyes of the Church, be a deal breaker) than it is to judge for one’s political choices (which also can, in the eyes of the Church, be a deal breaker).

The Greek word rendered as “judge” in English, and “judicare” in Latin means to “Cut off” or to separate. When we judge we cut ourselves off from the other person. We say, I have no part in her. And we send her away. A judgement is a spiritual boycott. But I speak the truth here: the cut goes both ways. I have cut you off, but I have cut myself off as well. If my salvation comes from communion, by excommunicating you, we are both lost.
Agape never fails. 
But this is not some wishy-washy “do whatever you want and I’ll still love you” love. Agape can see sin. Agape always wills the good of the other: that means always will the other to leave behind sin. But Agape means that the way out of sin is less a momentary decision and more a bunny hop line dance; less a life changer and more a continual progression. 
Agape leads by example not by condemnation. This is not a quid pro quo. This is a thermometer. As you do not judge so you will not be judged. That is not a case of if you do this thing you will be saved, but rather, as you progress in this path so you will near perfection. You can see how far you are along the path of salvation by how well you do not judge others. 
The awareness of sin comes from within: not from without. The Holy Spirit loosens our spiritual joints, like an oil can on a tin man until we can move freely. But we were beginning to be fine from the minute it started working. I am only beginning to be aware of how much God loves you, my reader. And it is only through that awareness that I can become aware of how much God loves me.

If someone is moving along that path, who am I to judge?

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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