IMITATING THE JUDGEMENT OF GOD
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18; Mt 7:1-5 ]
The scripture readings today speak of judgement. In the first reading, we read of the judgement of God on Israel. In the gospel, Jesus spoke of human’s judgement. There is a great difference between the judgement of God and man’s judgement. When God judges, He judges fairly with justice tampered by compassion. When man judges, he often lacks objectivity. His judgement tends to be skewed. Why is that so?
The judgement of God is always for the good of humanity. When God judges, it is always with the intention to heal and to save. God wants to save humanity. He does not seek to destroy us because He is love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (Jn 3:16f) This was how the Lord felt towards His people when they abandoned Him. “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I devastate Ephraim again. For I am God, and not a man – the Holy One among you.” (Hos 11:8f)
This is unlike human judgement which is more to condemn and to destroy. Man judges another so that he can put the other down. Our intention is to find fault to make us feel better. That is why we are ever ready to pick on the mistakes of others so that we can feel good with ourselves. We want to feel superior to others, that we are able to spot their mistakes. Some even maliciously enjoy seeing others penalized. Very often our judgment springs from pride, insecurity, and defensiveness. We judge others so that we can show ourselves to be better than them. When we judge others without the intention of helping a person to do the right thing and so “save” him or her, then we are wrong in making judgements. Such acts of judgements are not meant to be constructive.
Secondly, the judgement of God reflects who He is. When we judge others, it is not so much that others are being judged. Rather, by judging others, we show to others who we are. When God judges, it shows His justice, compassion, love and holiness. Even when judging us God is always full of compassion. His heart cries out for us because God knows that our sins will hurt us ultimately. All He asks for us is our repentance. This was the case of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. After 210 years of idolatry, greed for a better life lead them to worship the pagan deities, spiritual and moral corruption, alliance with foreign nations instead of trusting in Yahweh, God delivered Israel up to their enemy, Assyria. There was no other way to save the nation than to allow evil to destroy them as it had reached a stage of no return. “This had happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them.”
Human judgment often is a reflection of who we are. It is said that we do not see things as they are but we see things as we are. That is why the Lord invites us to search our motives when we judge. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you will give are the judgements that you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.” How we look at situations is how we look at ourselves, from ourselves and our perspective of life. A person who is narrow-minded in judgement shows how narrow his perspective is. Thus, it behooves to know that we are very much limited in judgment. This is why we need teamwork and collaboration from others. Today, no one must think that he has the full answer without first consulting the others who are in the know.
Thirdly, the judgment of God is tempered by mercy. In the first reading, we read that God sent the prophets to warn Israel of the consequences of their sins. “And yet through all the prophets and the seers the Lord had given Israel and Judah this warning, ‘Turn from your wicked ways and keep my commandments and my law in accordance with the entire Law I laid down for your fathers and delivered to them through my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen, they were more stubborn than their ancestors had been who had no faith in the Lord their God. They despised his laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and the warnings he had given them.’” Even when judging, God would appeal for repentance. He would not act till evil overtakes us.
Human judgment often is a reflection of our limits in love. When we cannot tolerate our enemies and injustices anymore, we seek revenge. Our aim is to remove them so that we have peace, not because we have any intention to help them to come to terms with their sins and find repentance. Thus, human judgement only shows how selfish and self-centered our love for others is. When we are defensive of our own interests rather than genuinely concerned with the interests of others, we tend to see things from our vantage point rather than that of our enemies. If only we change sides with our enemies and see from their point of view, we could perhaps become more sympathetic towards them. Jesus said, “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?” The invitation of our Lord is to “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36)
What does it mean for us when we are called to judge? In the first place, we must be careful not to misunderstand and take Jesus’ teaching on judgment out of context. We cannot do away with the responsibility to make judgments. Particularly as leaders, we are obliged to take a stand with regard the world and its values. To abdicate this responsibility is to do injustice not just to those under our care but to humanity at large. In the famous response of Pope Francis with respect to gay relationships, when he said, “who am I to judge?” he did not mean that the Church has nothing to say about this matter. What Pope Francis was refraining from was the subjective judgment of their actions. Indeed, the Lord tells us in the gospel, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:15f)
What then are the criteria for judgement? Firstly, those judging others must themselves come under the judgement of God. We must submit ourselves to God’s judgement of what is right and good before we can judge others. “How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye”, when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” The book of Psalms says, “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment.” (Ps 51:4) St Paul wrote about judging himself. “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.” (1 Cor 4:3-5) In the final analysis, God is our ultimate judge.
Secondly, we must judge by the fruits of what people say and do. “Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.” (Mt 7:16-20) Indeed, our fruits will show who we are. As St Paul warned us, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” (Gal 6:7f) So let us be discerning in judgement!
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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