Sunday, June 19, 2016


Homily for June 20th, 2016: Matthew 7:1-5.

          “Stop judging,” Jesus says. Can we really do that? Even simple statements involve judging: “This coffee is too hot;” or, “Children, you’re making too much noise.” And what about the moral judgments of others that we make, and must make, all the time? An employer makes a judgment every time he hires a new employee. The pope judges when he makes a priest a bishop. Parents make judgments about their children in deciding such questions as  when to entrust them with a cell phone, or the family car. Clearly Jesus cannot be forbidding judgments like that.

          What Jesus forbids is making judgments that only God can make – because only God can see the heart. When God sent the prophet Samuel to Bethlehem to find a new king for his people, to replace Saul, Samuel was especially impressed with the young man Eliab. Surely, he must be the one, Samuel says. To which the Lord responds: “Do not judge from his appearance or from his lofty stature, because I have rejected him. Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) Jesus, who was steeped in the Jewish Scriptures, would have been familiar with that passage. He would also have known the verse from the prophet Jeremiah, who represents God saying: “I, the Lord, alone probe the mind and test the heart, to reward everyone according to his ways.” (Jer. 17:10)

          “Stop judging, that you may not be judged,” Jesus says. That is what Bible scholars call the “theological passive.” What Jesus meant was, “Stop judging, so that God will not judge you.” A devout Jew could not say that. Pronouncing the name of God was forbidden. To avoid doing so, Jesus uses the passive: “that you may not be judged.”

          We find this confirmed in the words that follow: “The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”  What this means is: God will judge you with the severity, or generosity, which you show to others.  Do you hope that, when you come to stand before the Lord God in judgment, he will show you mercy? Then start showing mercy to others. It’s as simple as that!