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By Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Feb. 27, 2018
Today’s gospel reading gives us the famous verse, “Judge not that you be not judged.”
While the secular world want to use this to justify all their individual moral choices, Jesus is actually digging down into something much more significant.
First of all, the idea that we must never judge is stupid. Of course we judge, and we all make judgements all the time. We are also called to judge the moral choices of other people. We don’t judge their eternal soul, but we judge whether their decisions, words and actions are right or wrong. To deny this is just silly, sentimental and self indulgent.
What Jesus is really getting at here is the human quirk of blaming others for what is wrong–judging them as the guilty party when, in fact, the blame is at least, partly our own.
Shifting the blame is the major fault of the human race, and it is deadly not only because we blame other people (who may or may not be guilty) but because, by doing so, we exonerate ourselves, and by freeing ourselves from the blame we also free ourselves of the responsibility to do anything about the problem.
The core genius of the Christian faith, however, is that it attacks this problem. It says, “No. You cannot blame anyone else. Grow Up. Accept responsibility. Don’t complain. Don’t blame. Do something about it.”
This demand to take responsibility begins with the act of repentance. When we repent we do not just say, “Oh, poor me. I’m a miserable sinner–a worm and no man.” We do not simply feel ashamed or guilty or frightened that we will get caught. At the heart of true repentance is the decision to own up, take responsibility and do something about the problem with the help of God’s grace.
Once we do this we have the power to change the world because with God all things are possible.
This is in direct contradiction all the other philosophies and religions of the world. In one way or another all the other religions (apart from Judaism) are fatalistic. In other words, they teach that there are powers that are greater than the human individual will, and that all people are subject to those greater, overwhelming powers.
The Eastern religions teach that you are subject to your karma–the cycle of re incarnation and the destiny you were born into. Hinduism teaches that you are born in to your caste and must stay there. Pagan and New Age religions teach that you are a powerless part of the nature cycle or a subject of the whims of some demigod, goddess or angel. Atheistic materialism teaches that we are simply a cog in the big cosmic machine.
As long as you judge and blame other people you are submitting your will and your power to them. But as soon as you repent and take responsibility your will is empowered and when you join your will with God’s will you can change things. This is why Christianity changed the world, why Christians built schools and hospitals and churches and developed science and technology.
One might come back and say, “Hang on Father, there were other great civilizations that accomplished great things. What about the ancient cultures of China, Egypt, Assyria, Greece, Rome, Incan, Mayan…etc. etc.
To be sure. But they exhibit the other trait that develops in opposition to fatalism. That is the will to power. These civilizations were all built on the exercise of dictatorial, aristocratic, wealth or military power or a combination of the four. In these civilizations one individual, a dynasty or an aristocracy accomplished amazing things–but they did so almost always because they believed it was their destiny to do so. They were born to it and their claim to power was just as much part of the fatalistic system therefore, as the peasant and peons they subjugated.
Individual responsibility is a gift from the Christian faith, and it is the foundation not only of our faith, but also of our freedoms.
It is good, therefore, to be reminded that to whom much is given much shall be required.