Homily for Ordinary Time – 23rd Week Thursday, 9-10-20, Year A
Readings: 1st – 1 Cor 8:1b-7, 11-13, Gospel – Lk 6:27-38
Theme: Judging vs. Admonishing
Have you ever told someone not to do something and then later you realize you’ve done that very thing you told them not to do? I remember one time when I was in charge of safety at our shop, I admonished one of our salespeople who came into the shop wearing tennis shoes instead of the required steel-toed shoes. I told him, “You know you can’t be out here without steel-toed shoes on, right?” He then looked down at the boots I was wearing, stepped on the toe of one of them and said, “Ahh, it seems someone else should have them on too!”
Yup, I had forgotten the boots I was wearing were not my steel-toed pair, but my office pair with the same look and feel. He was right. I was admonishing him for an infraction when I, myself, was committing the same infraction. I had made a judgement against that person without checking myself first. I also did not correct him in a way that teaches him why we do what we do and give him a path forward so he could practice good safety the next time.
There is a difference between judging someone and correcting (admonishing) them for their sin. Both St. Paul and Jesus speak of the same thing. It is very easy for us to fall into the trap of harshly judging someone vs. correcting them with love. We may very well have right knowledge that our neighbor is sinning, but how we use that knowledge to help them can be the difference between destroying their fragile faith or reinforcing it.
When we judge we are making a concrete decision about the other person and their actions. With that decision we set consequences or punishments. Judgement does not always come with redemption or a path for a sinner to get back to God’s grace. We must remember that it is not ours to judge, for we all are sinners. The only person without sin and the authority to judge, is God himself. (James Chapter 4:11-12)
Now Jesus and St. Paul are not saying that we just roll over and allow that person’s sin to continue because we don’t want to hurt their feelings or feel they are their own keeper, i.e.: “What you do is your business and it is not mine to tell you otherwise.” No, that is relativism and that is also harmful to our neighbor. What we need to do is correct them with love and allow them to see a better way. They need to know that there is forgiveness and acceptance for them, even if they struggle giving up the sin.
We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch our neighbor fall into destruction, especially if they are committing a sin unwittingly. In other words, they may be so intrenched in their sinful way that they now believe it to be the truth and may not know any better. They need someone to help them to understand their behavior or actions in the context of real truth, which is revealed through Jesus Christ.
Jesus demonstrates for us a perfect example of loving correction over harsh judgement for sin in the story of the adulterous woman. She had just been caught in the very act of committing adultery and the townspeople immediately judged her based on their knowledge of the law and her sinful act. With that judgement came a sentence of death by stoning.
Now their knowledge of her sin and what the law required because of it; was correct. But they forgot to look at themselves first and how others would judge their behaviors. That is when Jesus steps in and asks them, “Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone at her.” No one was able to cast a single stone at her. Then Jesus turns to the woman and says, “Has no one condemned you?” and she replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.”
Note that Jesus did not judge her but forgave her of her sin and offered her a path forward to redemption. Note, too, that He still acknowledges that she did in fact sin and made it clear that she can go but should sin no more.
We can learn a lot from this story in how we look at and treat our neighbors, especially when we are right in our knowledge of another’s offenses. We must first remember our own sinful selves and that someone else may very well judge us. Most importantly, however, love must be the prevailing action along with a path to redemption and forgiveness for our neighbor. Then, and only then are we real participants in Christ’s redemptive work completed for all of us on the cross.