Homily based on the readings for Sept. 3, Memorial of St Gregory the Great, Friday of the XXII week in OT, year II
Judgment belongs to God alone. We all know that, but it can be very difficult for us to apply this principle correctly.
On one hand, our lives and interpersonal relationships depend on our making good judgments about people and events every day. For example, judgments of human character and sincerity are essential for establishing friendships, for making business decisions, and for deciding who we will vote for.
On the other hand, the first reading and the Gospel today point out how difficult it is to make right judgments. As St Paul says, we cannot even judge ourselves perfectly: our motivations and psychological conditioning are only partially clear to us, and only God can penetrate that darkness and reveal the truth. Our Lord points out in the Gospel that it can be very difficult for people to interchange ideas; we judge based on our own experiences and background. “What we are used to” becomes our guiding principle.
How do we reconcile these two truths – the need to judge, and the difficulty of doing it right?
First of all, when St Paul speaks of the Lord as the only true judge, he is speaking of judgments about guilt or merit. In other words, we can and must judge whether or not actions are good or bad, and whether or not someone is trustworthy; what we cannot judge is other people’s hearts and culpability before God. Only the Lord knows the secrets of our hearts. This is why we can condemn acts that are objectively sinful, while not hating the people who sin. It’s notable that St Paul says this goes both ways: he can neither condemn nor absolve himself.
Secondly, Jesus explains why it is difficult for the Pharisees and scribes to understand Jesus and his followers, but he doesn’t give up on them; he uses parables to help them open their minds and understand the unfamiliar “modus operandi” of Christ and his apostles. It is important that we also, before making any judgments, or in the face of being judged, keep an open mind and try to establish a relationship of mutual understanding. It can be difficult but it’s not impossible if we use some creativity and try to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.
What it comes down to in the end is that we should only judge within limited parameters and as much as possible should leave judgment – even about ourselves – to God. We need not waste time judging others or worrying about what others think of us. The Psalm gives us a good positive approach: “Trust in the Lord and do good… Commit to the Lord your way; trust in Him, and He will act. … Turn from evil and do good, that you may abide forever; for the Lord loves what is right, and forsakes not his faithful ones.”