I. Homily – 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time – September 6-7, 2014
II. There is a popular commercial for an insurance company that depicts a man cutting a branch of a tree with a chain saw only to see if fall on a car…in another vignette…a woman opens the door to her car as a truck passes by and tears the door off of the car…and there are whole series of vignettes like this…until the large word “HUMANS” flashes across the screen.
A. The point of the commercial is that bad things happen and this company is going to make it better.
B. Well…our Lord today gives some practical advice of how to make it better, but we may not like what he is saying.
C. He instructs his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault…”
1. Wait a minute!
a) Aren’t we supposed to forgive and forget?
b) Aren’t we supposed to turn the other cheek?
2. Isn’t this the same Lord who said: “Do not judge lest you be judged.”
a) One scripture commentator even makes the determination: “The darkness of compulsive judgmentalism distorts all my perceptions and poisons my heart like a noxious gas.”
b) So…what gives? How can he on one hand say we should forgive…and should not judge…and, on the other hand, go around confronting people.
c) How do we resolve this apparent contradiction?
III. We start with the axiom that our Lord does not lie and does not make mistakes. So…the statement that we ought not judge unless we be judged is true.
A. First, we human beings cannot know another’s interior state. We may know what a person has done, but we usually do not know why. They may not have known what they did was wrong or they did not know it was hurting someone or it was an accident. The reality is that we can certainly judge that a particular action is wrong…one person kills another…but we, humans, cannot see what is going on inside of that other person.
1. Second, we too are sinners. We too have done things that are wrong and hurtful.
2. Third, our practice of judging can be an attempt to cover over our own sinfulness…it makes us feel better when we can prove someone else is wrong.
B. The problem with prejudicial judgment is that we end up making ourselves God…because we presume…since we are intelligent people…that we know everything there is to know about a situation or event…we, humans, may also take for granted that everything we hear through the grapevine is accurate. Our judgments become divine.
1. One commentator explains: “Our habit of judging others really entrenches us in the impossibility of our receiving God’s, or anyone else’s, forgiveness–not indeed because God does not give it, but because we have ceased little by little to think of ourselves as at all needing forgiveness.”
2. The problem with thinking that we are capable of making divine judgments of intentions and interior states is that we soon make ourselves immune to repentance and, therefore, immune to forgiveness.
3. What this commentator is saying is that we human beings do not like it when someone tells us that we are not doing something right, because we view ourselves as the ones who should be judging and think ourselves incapable of needing to repent or change. When this happens, we have made ourselves God.
C. Here comes the rub…here comes the really difficult thing to realize about Jesus. The other thing Jesus never did was let his disciples think that they were always right. He never let them think that they were immune to repentance.
D. On the contrary, he constantly preached repentance and even would point out their shortcomings…
E. Jesus told the pharisees, they were “filled with dead men’s bones.”
F. Last week, we heard him call Peter, “Satan.”
G. And, when he cleansed the temple, Jesus told the moneychangers to stop making His Father’s house “a den of thieves.”
H. Never do we hear our Lord telling them, “I’m ok…you’re ok.”
I. Before Jesus was arrested, the words with which He left them were not, “Go forth, baptize all nations and FORM A MUTUAL ADORATION SOCIETY.”
1. No. He told them to love one another as I have loved you…to give their lives for each other…to take up their cross and give themselves away…sometimes this means even talking respectfully to someone we do not like.
2. This always means repenting of that which we have done wrong, but it also can mean disagreeing with a friend or even going to that friend and, as Jesus instructs, respectfully “…tell him his fault.”
IV. Here is the key! Here is the reconciliation between not judging and the passage we hear today about talking to someone who has sinned against you.
A. We have a need to repent and sometimes we need help!
1. When it comes to our workout, we know we will be more healthy if we have a trainer.
2. If we are in business, we know we need consultants who are going to tell us the truth…
3. …but for some reason, when it comes to our spiritual and moral life, heaven forbid anyone tell me what to do.
4. And, yet, Fulton Sheen told us that your greatest enemy is actually your greatest friend, because your enemy will tell you all the things wrong with you that your friend will not.
B. We can spend a whole lot of time justifying why what we do is right and why what the other person is doing is not…what Jesus wants from us is first to realize our own need for repentance and, second, to love our neighbor.
C. We can be so wrapped up in our own thing that we never look at ourselves, check our own measure and anyone who dares to challenge our assumptions is deemed evil.
V. The rest of us are all simply the wounded helping the wounded.
A. This is really Pope Francis’ message too isn’t it?
B. Pope Francis’ message is not that He is going to change the teaching of Christ handed to us through the Church.
C. No. His message is that we are all sinners striving for holiness whether we are Pope, bishop, priest, deacon, laywoman or layman.
D. But, some of us will see things that the other does not see…does this mean we remain silent?
E. No, but, it does mean we go to the individual themselves…first…not last.
F. This is the point. So, often we, humans, defame others… to others, first, and perhaps only to others…we don’t respect the individual enough to address them directly.
G. You will notice that Jesus never taught us that… if someone wrongs us… then we should go and tell all of our friends about how terrible they are and never let go of the hurt.
1. I am pretty sure He never said that.
H. The challenge for us today is that, in many spheres, even Christ Himself is being judged.
1. We have come to a point in our society in which even the most basic teachings of Christ are deemed bigoted…and, yet, these are the only thing in the world on which we can rely for a moral guide.
2. Could it be not that Christ and His Church are wrong, but that we do not know?
VI. Christ shows us how to love and it is not always so simple as simply never saying anything that might upset someone.
A. First, we should go privately to the person…alone…with no one else even knowing that you are doing it.
B. Second, we are not God.
1. We are sinners in need of forgiveness.
2. We are not beyond reproach.
3. We are not all-knowing.
C. Third, our greatest friend is an honest friend.
1. When we hear the truth, don’t be afraid of it, don’t fight it.
2. Truth in the spiritual and moral life makes us good people
D. Fourth, God’s goal for us and our ultimate goal is not being right but being holy…uniting ourselves to the one who is the way and the truth and the life…our ultimate goal is union with God in heaven.