Carmelite nuns at St. Joseph Monastery June 20, 2016


Carmelite Monastery Mass -                                                                                                                         June 20th, 2016                                                                                                                                                Matthew 7:1-5

“Who am I to judge?”

When Pope Francis said those words to journalists on a flight back to Rome, they went viral.  They caught the world’s attention; of millions both inside and outside the Church.

People listened because no pontiff had ever uttered such words before, nor taken the name Francis for that matter; so simple in his approach, life-style and demeanor.  I find Pope Francis a breath of fresh air.

"Who am I to judge?”

Such words caught the world’s attention because many have felt judged and on the periphery of the Church’s life for a variety of reasons and often beyond their control; wounded and hurt by the Church’s actions.

Now, they find in Pope Francis someone willing to listen and understand; unwilling to play the Pharisee and point the finger.  Someone who has encouraged the Church to become a “culture of encounter” rather than ‘going to war’ with the culture; so much a part of it as we are.  When will we ever learn that war, in any form, never leads to reconciliation and peace?  All war has ever done is wound.  We can kill even with our words or by a mere glance we cast at another.

So, many find in Pope Francis something of Christ:  someone in touch with our limitations and sin due to his humility and self-knowledge.

The words “Who am I to judge?” annoyed and unsettled some within the Church, yet impacted countless more for the better and opened a door that had been closed.  Such language echoes the merciful Christ who, in today’s gospel, says:

“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.”

Let’s face it:  we’re judging all the time.  Just follow your thoughts on a given day.  How judgmental we can be when it comes to how a person looks, acts, or even drives.  We can be so judgmental with those who think differently and push our buttons.  We do it all the time, and without a second thought.

In monastic life, I could be so judgmental over the pettiest things, mere “splinters”:  how a monk ate, read in refectory, or sang in choir.  I could be merciless towards one monk who, whenever I preached and without fail, would fall asleep during my homily. He’s now one of my favorites, however.

Then, there’s the dark and tragic actions of that Orlando shooter recently; judgmental to the extreme and in a way that took lives.  Our judgments, indeed, can kill.

Whenever we judge, we’re in danger of distancing ourselves from others and failing to see that we’re made from the same clay.  We fail to see, as Pope Francis has said, that “We’re all in the same boat, headed for the same port.”

Our tendency to judge blinds us; that “wooden beam” in our eye that Jesus points out in today’s gospel.  Psychologists have noted that often we are critical of something in others that, on an unconscious level, we disdain in ourselves.  So, we project this self-loathing onto others; a blind and irresponsible way to escape that unredeemed mess inside by pointing the finger and so avoid the work of conversion.

Sometimes, we can be rather condemning of ourselves; so harsh and unforgiving.  We beat ourselves up and put ourselves down, blind to God’s merciful outreach and who wants only to receive us.  Did not Jesus say, “I have come, not to condemn, but to save”?

“Stop judging” because “Who am I to judge?”  We’re no better than anyone else, though we sometimes think and act as though we are.  We need to stop ‘playing God’ and learn a different approach when it comes to the other:  the gospel approach and way of mercy; to see with the eyes of Christ during this Year of Mercy.

Year ago, my Abbot offered advice I try to put into practice.  He urged me to “Give the other options” when I’m tempted to rush to judgment because we don’t really know what that other person might be facing inside; what cross they’re made to carry.

Let me end with words by Mother Teresa of Calcutta:

I feel that we too often focus only on the negative aspect of life—on what is bad.  If we were more willing to see the good (in one another) and the beautiful things that surround us, we would be able to transform our families.  From there, we would change our next-door neighbors and then others who live in our neighborhood or city.  We would be able to bring peace and love to our world, which hungers so much for these things.  (p. 26)

Yes, “Who am I to judge?”

Father Tim Clark, Pastor

Our Lady of the Lake Parish, Seattle

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