Can We Give Up Judging for Lent?

Today’s Gospel lesson (Luke 6:35-38)is perhaps one of the hardest ideals for human beings to put into practice:

“Stop judging and you will not be judged.”

I think this is harder even than “love your enemies” and “turn the other cheek” because human beings seem programmed to make judgements about situations, people, ideas.  We are constantly evaluating ourselves and others.

For those involved in LGBT ministry and advocacy in the Catholic Church, judging becomes an occupational hazard.  Since our goal is justice for all, we are eternally judging events, incidents, statements, people to see if these meet standards of fairness and equality.  If we want to make the world better, how can we not be judging these things?

I think that the dilemma can be resolved in two ways.  The first is understanding what is meant by “judging.”  We get a better idea of this definition when we read these lines in the context of the fuller passage in which it occurs:

“Jesus said to his disciples:
‘Be merciful, just as God is merciful.
Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.’ “

The type of judging Jesus says we should avoid is judging which becomes condemnatory and unforgiving–the type of judging which puts the judge in a morally superior position and the judged in a morally inferior one.  Our judgements should never become occasions for us to think we are better than other people–even people who don’t share our thirst for or understanding of justice.

The second way to resolve this dilemma is to follow the example of today’s first reading (Daniel 9: 4b-10).  The reading, which is Daniel’s prayer addressed to God:

“Great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our rulers and parents, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O God, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day.”

Instead of placing himself in a superior position to his adversaries, instead of seeing himself as the arbiter and provider of justice, Daniel acknowledges that he is weak and flawed, and that justice comes from God alone.  He offers a model of how we should respond when faced with injustices:  not pointing figures, but recognizing how we ourselves fall short of the ideal.

Daniel’s example of humility and non-judgement of others is one we might aspire to for Lent.  Can we give up pride and judgement for Lent, as a way of drawing closer to the God of justice?

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


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