Very few people are attracted to a religion or church of judgement. Religious leaders who come across as judgmental are seen as condescending and hypocritical. And yet we all make judgments everyday of our lives.
We judge attitudes , political and religious; we judge appearances and speech; we judge people who live differently and love differently. Making judgments is important and necessary…we can’t get around it. But there is a great difference between making judgments and becoming judgmental.
Being judgmental conveys an attitude of superiority, taking an, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” approach to life. Judgmental people love to draw the line between who’s in and who’s out…of the church, in social groups , and political affiliations. “Us versus them,” becomes the tired anthem.
God’s beautiful sun shines on us ALL: the good and the not so good. And we ALL fall into both camps, if we are truly honest with ourselves. God is the sole Judge of our hearts and souls. And God’s judgment ultimately is grounded in how we treat each other, in other words, by our actions.
Today’s gospel, Matthew 25, is the “magna carta” of the gospel: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink….that what you do to my least one’s, you do to ME.” This judgement scene has the king separating the goats from the sheep: the goats on the left and the sheep on the right ( a designation having nothing to do with politics!!) the sheep are those who feed the poor; the goats are those who neglect the poor. In neglecting the poor and the thirsty and the sick and the lonely…. we neglect God. The goats end up in hell, not a good end.
Yes, God will judge our characters by how we reach out to the “least ones.” Actually, we end up judging our own selves, our very souls, when we fail to help the needy. And when we live under a bubble of self absorption, we create our own hell. God doesn’t have to put us in this place of torment; we do it ourselves. Words can only have power if they are followed by concrete actions of charity and Justice. Physically encountering the poor will change lives and hearts. Sharing dinner with the poor at any soup kitchen can completely turn one’s life upside down, the position of the saint.
Writing checks just isn’t enough because it’s the easiest out, the road most traveled.
But God wants us for himself…God wants our salvation…God will haunt us every second of our lives…but God will always give us the freedom to elude His grasp…the grasp of Mercy. I have no doubt, though, that when we breath our last , God will breath his spirit into our hardened heart, breaking it open, allowing divine mercy to seep into the crevices of years of brittle judgment.
God will have the Last Word. Forgiveness. Mercy. Resurrection. Eternal Easter.
Peace. Fr. Frank