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March 14, 2018 - Judgement

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Lent

Scripture Readings

We all have judgments that we need to make. We need to judge the veracity of our news sources, the quality of our food, the best ways to spend our money, and the list continues. Today’s Gospel also ends with Jesus talking about judgement.

Jesus’ closing words are “I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.” From the larger context of the passage it is apparent that Jesus is talking about a level of judgement that is far above our pay-grade, the eternal kind. He will reveal to us our own hearts, his light illuminating even the darkest corners.

This is a form of judgement that is not only above us, but that we are commanded not to perform. This is not merely a prohibition against condemnation, but also a warning not to judge anyone as ‘good enough.’ We can all use a reminder of the Gospel. The majority of the New Testament is Christians writing to Christians to remind each other of the Gospel. If we are not to judge anyone in the eternal sense, then why reflect on Jesus’ words about judgment?

As stated above we have judgements we have to make, and we want to make them justly. In Jesus’ words we find some guidance.

First, he listens. This should not sound radical, but in a time and place where social media fights can end real friendships we must wonder if we are listening to one another. The temptation in a world that comes with a ‘like’ button is to merely seek the approval of those with whom you already agree, not dialogue with those with whom you have differences.

We must listen, and there is a voice we mustn’t exclude, God’s.

The assurance of Jesus’ just judgement was that he seeks the Father’s will. We should seek to do the same. To do this we need to listen to God. The Lord has gifted us consciences to form through prayer, Scripture, the voice of the Church, and reason so that we can make judgments that seek God’s will more than our own.

Sometimes to do this we need to identify that which might cloud our judgement. In a recent video we showed at the church for our grief support group, this theme arose. The scenario being portrayed was about a man who was entering into a lawsuit with medical professionals that might have been at fault in his wife’s death. The scene showed one man encouraging the other to first forgive before he seeks legal action. He clarifies that after forgiveness it might still be just to have recourse to the judicial system, but without forgiving first and removing his personal stake for vengeance and satisfaction, he can’t discern whose will is really being pursued. Where do our personal stakes cloud our gift of right judgement?

One of those stakes can be our concern for the opinions of others. This passage from John 5 shows us a Jesus unperturbed that pursuing the will of the Father might not win him approval from everyone. This is an exercise of the gift, the fear of the Lord. One of the best reflections I’ve read about the fear of the Lord came from Cardinal Ratzinger who explored it in a similar way to how Jesus talks about judgement. He juxtaposed the fear of the Lord with the fear of other people. Just as Jesus’ judgement is just because he seeks the Father’s will and not his own, we can pursue justice by asking what would God think about x before getting distracted thinking about what other’s would think.

To seek the will of God though means listening with a discerning heart. A heart that is able to recognize where our personal stakes cloud our judgement. A heart that listens to the Lord and humbly seeks formation through all the means God has offered us. A heart that humbly recognizes the limits of our human judgement and never judges anyone as not needing the Gospel, starting with the person we see when we look in the mirror.

- Spencer Hargadon