Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Do Not Judge; Love your enemies

The Gospel readings these days have told us of the importance of humility, its centrality in our following of Christ. The saints tell us that a great aid to our humility is to focus on our own littleness, but more importantly to focus on the greatness of God. To be open to God’s actions is to learn to be humble, because God acts often when we least expect, and uses the instruments we least suspect. This is connected with Jesus’ command not to judge. Of course we must make judgments in our lives, about good and evil, about situations and decisions. But Jesus warns us against judging anything, or anyone’s ultimate value. That is for God alone, who gives rain to the just and the unjust, the saints and the sinners. Any person’s value ultimately comes from God, and is not subject to human judgment or determination. It is hard to accept this at times, for it leads us to Jesus’ command: Love your enemies. Pray for your persecutors.
Humility led St. Francis to the great realization that we should not only pray for our persecutors, but even thank God for them, because sometimes the Lord uses even our enemies to guide in our lives. Who knows what instruments God will choose? If we judge and put ourselves above others, we may not be able to listen to God speaking through them.
Francis learned this lesson through the experiences of his life. One major one was his encounter with the leper, of course. In his wildest dreams he never would have thought that God would touch him through the disgusting, diseased flesh of a leper. Yet, as he tells us, that is exactly what God did.
Even more important, I think, was Francis’s experience with Bishop Guido of Assisi. They tell us Guido was a passionate, greedy man in many ways, prone to fits of anger. Francis could easily have judged him and condemned him in his heart. He certainly would have been suspicious of any help he might receive for his new gospel venture from the bishop. Yet, with faith he turned to Guido as a minister of God’s Church, and found that God used that bishop to help him discover his vocation. When Francis’s father left him naked in the piazza, it was Guido who covered him with his mantle and helped him on his way. Francis found support from this ‘worldly’ bishop and turned to him for advice. Francis, too, had a good effect on Guido. This experience probably helped Francis grow in his faith in Christ’s promise to be with his Church always, despite the failings of some of its members.
Lent may be a good time for us to ask God’s grace to listen even to those who annoy us, those who hurt us, even those who persecute us. Whatever their intentions, God may use them as instruments. And, who knows: God may want to use us as instruments in their lives.
Peace and All Good!


Dcn Scott Dodge said...

Great reflection on the Lenten Gospels! I appreciate very much these words today!

ben said...

I struggle with the tension between the command not to judge and the instruction to be merciful at the same time and instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner.

It seems necessary that to admonish the sinner, we have first to judge him as such, and find him to be one in need of admonition. If, on the other hand we fail to admonish those in need, we have failed our brothers in sinful way since we have not helped them get to heaven.

Rashfriar said...

Thanks for the comments. Yes, Ben, that is a struggle. Again, I think that we have to judge and admonish, but again these have to arise out of love, and that love is grounded not in our love of the sinner, but God's love of that person as well as us. God bless you!