Homily for Jan. 18, Tuesday of the II week in OT year I
Everyone lives their lives according to certain principles. If our lives are to be truly meaningful, we need to pick our principles well and be coherent with our decisions. As Christians, we have recognized the truth and value of the principles taught by Christ, and we rightly try to uphold them personally, and expect others who identify themselves as Christians to do the same.
None of us fulfills the ideal perfectly. However, we often find ways to excuse our own limitations – in part, because we know the circumstances and the reasons why we fall short, which sometimes are legitimate excuses. We are often not as easy on others, since we lack this interior perspective when we see that they are not living up to the standard they profess. But we also know that Jesus tells us not to judge other people, lest we be judged. If we expect forgiveness, we have to be willing to forgive.
Although we should not judge other people, we need to be able to judge their actions sometimes, to defend important truths and the common good. However, if we look at actions and laws superficially we can fall into a very literal and rigorist point of view in our judgments. The Gospel today illustrates why this is wrong: not all principles are absolute, and there are cases where exceptions can be made depending on the origin and purpose of the rule and the circumstances of the action. God gave the law prohibiting work on the Sabbath, in order to ensure that everyone, including those who were dedicated to manual labor, had the opportunity to rest and spend time in prayer and worship. Jesus’ disciples were not violating God’s intent for the Sabbath by picking grain to eat; they were following the spirit, if not the letter, of the law.
This is not to say that there are not any absolute principles, nor that we should avoid any judgments at all of other people’s behavior. What it does mean is that we should not make hasty judgments, and that even when an action is clearly wrong, we should leave the judgment of the person’s culpability to God, Who sees what is in each person’s heart.
Rather than judging others, we should focus on our own perseverance in love and in working to serve God and each other. Thus, as the first reading tells us, we will show “eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end,” “inheriting the promises” of God “through faith and patience.”