22 June 2015

Gambling on mercy

NB. A catechetical homily from 2012. . .

12th Week OT (M)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Let's get to the nitty-gritty of Jesus' admonition against being judgmental by making an essential distinction: there is a difference btw “judging an act to be immoral” and “judging to person to be immoral.” For example, the Church has always believed that the direct killing of innocent life is an intrinsically morally evil act; therefore, regardless of intent or circumstance, abortion may never be called good. Now, let's say a Catholic female friend of yours procures an abortion and tells you about it. You respond, “Abortion is a mortal sin.” She yells at you, “Get the splinters out of your own eye before you judge me!” How do you answer her? You can take the easy way out and back off immediately, allowing her judgment of you to shut you up. Or, if you're feeling the Spirit's courage, you might say, “I'm not judging you. I'm judging the act of procuring an abortion.” If you want to violate the Lord's admonition not to judge, you could respond, “You are guilty of murder and need to go to confession immediately!” Just know: “. . .as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” 

Now that we've made the distinction between judging an act and judging a person, let's look carefully at what Jesus teaches about making judgments. First, as Christians, are we forbidden from judging acts? No, we're not. In fact, we are often required to judge the morality of an act before we do it. Is it moral for me to deceive this person under these circumstances? The cashier gave me too much change: is it moral for me to keep it? Is smacking this person up side the head moral? I'm late for work: may I speed? We are free to deliberate on the morality of acts b/c we are obligated as Christians to behave morally. Are we forbidden from judging persons? No, we're not. But there's a catch. A big catch. Jesus says to remove the splinter from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from mine. If your eye is free of splinters, then start removing splinters from mine! Here's the catch: you will be judged as you judge, and the measure you use to measure me will be used to measure you. So, make sure that the standard you use to judge me is one that you yourself can live up to. Hypocrisy is the art of applying one standard to yourself and a completely different standard to others. And we all know what Jesus thinks of hypocrites! 

Why do we so consistently ignore or twist Jesus' teaching on hypocrisy? He asks, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” Well, it's certainly easier for me to worry about your faults than my own. If I pay too much attention to my sins, I might actually have to think about confessing them, and that's no fun. It's also easier for me to accuse you falsely of being judgmental if I don't want to repent of my favorite sin. Judge not lest ye be judged! That's part of the teaching. . .the part that supposedly lets me off the hook for sinning when you bring the sin to my attention. You might have several yards of lumber in your eye when you point out the toothpick in mine. The fact that you're a sinner too doesn't mean I'm a saint. It just means that we are both sinners. So, what's a good Christian to do when a friend is sinning? Take a careful inventory of your own moral life. Pay very, very careful attention to your motivations for wanting to point out a friend's sin. And then decide if you are willing to be judged by the standard you think proper for your friend. No one is perfect. But no one is purely evil either. Gamble on mercy—that's the measure Christ uses, whether we deserve it or not.

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1 comment:

  1. Reasons to Believe in Jesus

    Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

    Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

    Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

    And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

    Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

    From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

    If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

    by David Roemer