“Do not think at all about what other do; think instead about the account you must render of yourself.” (Note 1)
“[N]ow see that you also judge without understanding. You do know know the one whom you judge. You do not see the interior. You do not know his intentions, which may perhaps justify him. And if his crime is manifest, you do not know whether he will one day repent, or whether he has already repented, or whether he is one of those whose conversion will cause great rejoicing in heaven. Therefore do not judge.” (Note 2)
“Much more than she judges others, charity judges and condemns herself. ‘You have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things’ (Rom 2:1). You judge yourself by your own mouth, and you pronounce your own sentence. ‘For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.’ (Matt 7:2).” (Note 3)
“To forgive is to break the vicious cycles of death by a fresh act of utter generosity. Forgiveness is not play acting, not romantic religion, not casual hugs. It is a decision to begin at a different place. Without forgiveness, the world works its way to death and destructiveness, generation after generation. Unforgivenness leads to death, both for the victim and for the perpetrator. The news is not just that God forgives, but that God has created a people to have as its main, single business in the world the forgiveness of sins, the cancellation of debts, the breaking of the power of fear and date and death, in order to start again.” (Note 4)
Today’s readings: Daniel 13:1-62; John 8:1-11
The two readings today are very similar, though a little different. Susanna was accused of adultery by two men she wouldn’t submit to, but was vindicated and the men were punished in the manner they sought to punish her. In the Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. (We won’t question how they caught her.) When they asked Jesus about her sin, he bent down and started writing on the ground. We don’t know what he wrote, but John thought it important enough to include. Many scholars have speculated that he was writing the sins of those who were accusing her, and then said, “Let he who among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7 (RSV))
Bossuet emphasizes this point in his mediation. We judge people for their sins, all the while ignoring our own — even worse: committing the same sin yet judging someone else for it. You see what you reap for that, just look at Susanna’s accusers from Daniel, and read Matthew 7:2.
Not judging people is hard — I mean very hard — probably one of the most difficult things we do, only exceeded in difficulty by forgiving others. Not judging is an act of love. We are supposed to love our neighbor, we don’t know their journey, just what we see in a slice of time, and then only the exterior. Yet we condemn them with judgement born out of what? Typically an attempt to expiate our own guilt for the same sins. “I know I do that, too, but he’s much worse than I am.” It’s the same sin, regardless of our take on whose is ‘worse’ — if that is even possible when speaking of the same sins.
But we forget about a couple of things when we rush to judgment: intent (our law calls it mens rea) and repentance.
Intent is very important, though our legislatures seem to have forgotten that as they work to remove more and more mens rea requirements — a story for another time. Intent can mean the difference between sin and no sin. For example, terminal patients who receive morphine to alleviate their suffering. We know morphine also shortens their life span, but the intent isn’t to kill them, it is to reduce their suffering. Don’t confuse this with giving someone a hyper-dose of morphine to end their suffering, that is nothing but intent to end a life. There are many more examples of this, but I won’t go through them. Suffice it to say that without proving intent, you don’t know if a person actually is committing a sin.
Second, repentance. Jesus, God, forgives sins when we go to him with contrite hears and true repentance and sorrow for our sins. We go to confession, truly sorry for our sins, we seek forgiveness and God cleanses our hearts and fills us with his grace. When you judge someone, have they repented their sins and received grace? If they have, who are you to judge what God has forgiven? Again, read Matthew 7:2.
When we judge others we fail to love them and we fail to love God because God’s command is to love our neighbor. When we judge, we also show the sin in our life, because we tend to judge as a way to expiate our own guilt. Instead, we should love our neighbor and support him with our faith and prayers and love. You never know, as Bossuet said, your love could lead to their conversion and it could be one that causes great rejoicing in heaven.
1. Jacques-Benigne Bossuet, Meditations for Lent, trans. Christopher O. Blum (Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press, 2013), 131.
2. Bossuet, Meditations, 132.
3. Bossuet, Meditations, 133.
4. Walter Brueggemann, “The Challenge of Forgiveness”. In Renewing Our Discipleship, Daily Reflections on the 2017 Lenten Readings for Mass, ed. Steve Mueller (St Louis, MO: All Saints Press, 2017), 34.