Judging and Correcting
Fr. Jordi Rivero, March 22, 2015

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What did Jesus mean when he said not to judge others

Who am I to Judge?
Fr. Jordi Rivero

Pope Francis has alarmed many faithful Catholics by saying more than once: “Who am I to judge?” They interpret his words as an assertion of moral relativism. But this cannot be the meaning of the pope's words because he has elsewhere repeatedly confirmed the Church's teaching on morality. A question remains: why does he say such things, running the risk of being misunderstood? The pope is seeking to shift our attention from judging others to judging self, from condemnation to mercy. This shift is an essential element of the Gospel which is often forgotten.

The pope's question “Who am I to judge?” does not deny the importance of objective moral law. It does not address the object (moral law) but rather the subject (my act of judging). Pope Francis is challenging us, as Jesus challenged the pharisees, to shift our attention away from the sins of others and towards our own. Once we recognize we are sinners and that we depend totally on the mercy of God, are we to condemn others?

An example of this is found in the Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery. Jesus does not deny her guilt nor the validity of the objective moral law against adultery. Rather, He shifts the attention of her accusers from the woman's sin to their own: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (Jn 8:7). These words challenge the dormant consciences of those men and they are convicted of their own sins. Once this happened, the could not condemn another person. They stop accusing the woman and walk away. Only God can condemn, yet Jesus, at the end of the story, tells the woman: “Neither do I condemn you” (Jn 8:11). Saint Agustine commented on this Gospel passage: "What is this, O Lord? Do you favor sins, then? Certainly not! But take note of what follows: "Go, henceforth sin no more." The Lord did condemn, therefore, but he condemned the sin, not the sinner." (Tractate 33)

Jesus tells us: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned” (Lc 6:37). The words of Jesus are for all, even for popes. We should approach our neighbor not as self righteous judges but as fellow sinners who reach out and suffer with them, trusting in God in our path to union with Him.

After Jesus' defense of the women, some probably said that He was defending adultery. Pope Francis is willing to suffer criticism to shepherd us deeper into the heart of Jesus. He is not changing the moral law; he is changing hearts.


Correction and the Welfare of Persons and Community
Fr. Jordi Rivero

Is there "right" and "wrong"? Should we help others to see when they go wrong? YES, but we must be guided by Christ's wisdom or we would do more harm than good.

We are not the source of truth. What is right and wrong is revealed by God.
Only a person that is humble and obedient to God can communicate the way of Christ.

Scripture forbids that we judge others.
Jesus came not to judge but to forgive and to call us all to repentance so that we not be condemned. "For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (John 12:47).  For this He gave His life on the Cross. If we are one with Christ we share His passionate desire for the salvation of all. Thus He tells us: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." (Mt 7:1-2).

Show God's Mercy
Those who love God intercede before Him for the salvation of all. Abraham was grieved by the sins of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorra and he interceded before God in their behalf; Moses pleaded with God to forgive the sins of the Israelites. Both men are types of Christ who not only prayed for sinners but took upon Himself the sins of the world to save us.

Correct with love
While Christ did not come to judge, He did come to call us to repentance and a new life in Him. We need to distinguish between condemnatory judging and admonishing for the sake saving a person from being condemned at the end of earthly life. We are called to be instruments of Christ to bring as many as possible to heaven. To speak the truth about moral behavior and to admonish a brother are works of mercy. Not to admonish when we should is a failure to love.

The motivation for correction should be love. Think of the difference between those who judge a drug addict in condemnation and the addict's mother who, aware of his situation and with tears, does what she can to take him out the addiction. The difference is love. The mothers suffers deeply with her son and would give her life to rescue him from the addiction. By uniting her sufferings with Christ for the sake of her son, she is an instrument of healing grace to him. There is a third approach common today: That is to say that no one should judge the addict, thus they see no need to help him get out of the addiction.  

We are sinners helping sinners
First we must recognize that we too are sinners. We need to examine first our conscience in the light of Christ. He will help us see our sins so that we can be humble and seek repentance and forgiveness. Jesus tells us "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Mt 7:3). Only if we have recognized and faced our own sin can we humbly help our brothers. "then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye" (Mt 7:5).

Since there is much about ourselves that we do not see, we should desire (not just accept but actively seek) to be corrected and admonished by others who love us enough to tell us what they see. One of the gifts of being in a community is having this kind of relationship through accompaniment.

We cannot go around admonishing or correcting everyone. But there are situations in which God does expect us to do so and thus fulfill the prophetic mission we received in baptism. St Paul writes: "for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears." (Act 20:31; Cf 1Cor 4:14). Tears are a sign of his sorrow and care for those oppressed by sin. He is thus acting based in love. It is the opposite of being self-righteous.

We have a particular responsibility for those with whom the Lord has placed us in special relationships: spouses, parents, spiritual directors, pastors, brothers and sisters in community.

St. Paul advices Titus to protect the flock from unrepentant sinners: "As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned" (Titus 3:9-11). Paul also tells us to "teach and admonish one another in all wisdom" (Col. 3:16) and to "admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all" (1Thes.5:4).

St. Paul writes to the Corinthians not to accept in the community sinners who do not want to change. This requires some judgment to protect the community from becoming worldly.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Drive out the wicked person from among you." (1 Cor 5-13)

The Christian community must also have the ability to resolve grievances and confront cases of immorality.

When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases?  Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life!  If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers?...

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:1-11, Cf  Hebrews 13:4 )

Scripture warns against false judgments 

The Lord teaches not to "judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." (John 8:15). He warns: "You judge according to the flesh" (John 7:24). This kind of worldly judgment is most common and does immeasurable harm. It is driven by the devil who exploits our sinful tendencies. It lacks the wisdom and the love of God. This kind of judgment is sinful even if it were true, for truth without love is the work of the devil who is the accuser of the brethren. In addition, it leads to gossip, diffamation and other ways of speaking evil of others.

Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you that you judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)

True correction and admonishment requires wisdom from God. John Paul II wrote:

Wisdom is the light that is received from above: it is a special participation in that mysterious and supreme knowledge that is God Himself. In effect, we read in Holy Scripture: "Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her" (Wisdom 7, 7-8). This superior wisdom is the root of a new knowledge, a knowledge impregnated by charity, thanks to which the soul acquires familiarity, so to say, with divine things and tastes the good of them. Saint Thomas speaks of "certain taste of God" (Summa Theol. II-II, q.45, a. 2, ad. 1), so that the true sage is not simply the one who knows the things of God but the one who experiences them and lives them. In addition, knowledge of wisdom gives us a special capacity to judge human things according to the measurement of God, in the light of God. Enlightened by this gift, the Christian knows how to see interiorly the realities of the world: nobody better than he is capable of appreciating the authentic values of creation, seeing them with the eyes of God. -Audience, IV-IX-89, my translation from Sp

Only with divine wisdom can we seek the path of our own conversion and help others to journey with us in the narrow path. 


Corrección y el Bienestar de las Personas y de la Comunidad
Padre Jordi Rivero

¿Hay el bien y el mal? ¿Debemos ayudar a los demás a ver cuando van mal? SÍ, pero guiados por la sabiduría de Cristo. De otra manera haríamos más daño que bien.
Nosotros no somos la fuente de la verdad. Dios nos enseña lo correcto.
Sólo quien es humilde y obediente a Dios puede comunicar el camino de Cristo.
Las Sagradas Escrituras prohíben que juzgemos a los demás.
Jesús no vino para juzgar, sino para perdonar y llamarnos al arrepentimiento para que no seamos condenados. "Porque yo no he venido a juzgar al mundo sino a salvar al mundo" (Juan 12:47). Para esto dio su vida en la cruz. Si somos uno con Cristo compartimos su deseo apasionado por la salvación de todos. Así Él nos dice: "No juzguen, para no ser juzgados. Porque con el criterio con que ustedes juzguen se los juzgará, y la medida con que midan se usará para ustedes." (Mt 7: 1-2).

Mostrar la Misericordia de Dios
Los que aman a Dios interceden ante Él por la salvación de todos. Abraham se dolía por los pecados de los habitantes de Sodoma y Gomorra e intercedió ante Dios por ellos; Moisés suplicó a Dios que perdone los pecados de los israelitas. Ambos hombres son tipos de Cristo, que no sólo oró por los pecadores sino que tomó sobre sí los pecados del mundo para salvarnos.

Corregir con amor
Cristo no vino a juzgar pero si vino a llamarnos al arrepentimiento y una nueva vida en Él. Tenemos que distinguir entre el juicio condenatorio y la amonestación que busca el bien de una persona. Estamos llamados a ser instrumentos de Cristo para llevar la mayor cantidad posible de cielo. Decir la verdad sobre el comportamiento moral y amonestar a un hermano son obras de misericordia. No amonestar cuando se debe es una falta de amor.

La motivación para la corrección debe ser el amor.
Piense en la diferencia entre los que juzgan a un drogadicto condenándolo y la madre del adicto que, consciente de su situación y con lágrimas, hace lo que puede para sacarlo de la adicción. La diferencia es el amor. Las madres sufre profundamente con su hijo y le daría su vida para rescatarlo de la adicción. Al unir sus sufrimientos con Cristo por el bien de su hijo, ella es un instrumento de curación y de gracia para él. Hay un tercer enfoque que es común hoy día.: Es decir que nadie debe juzgar al adicto pero lo abandonan a la adicción. Es una posición de no juicio pero de indiferencia.

 San Agustin: ¿Qué decir, Señor? ¿Favoreces el pecado? No, en absoluto. Fíjate en lo que sigue: “puedes irte y no vuelvas a pecar.” El Señor condena el pecado no al pecador.

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