Has there ever been a more widespread sin than that of rash judgment? Who among us can claim to be free from fault in this arena? Has there been a single day in our lives where we did not in some way criticize our neighbor’s doings?
Thomas à Kempis: “Turn thy eyes back upon thyself and see thou judge not the doings of others. In judging others a man labors in vain, often errs, and easily sins; but in judging and looking into himself he always labors with fruit.”
13 thoughts on “Rash Judgment”
I believe that there may be a fruitful tie in here with Fr Jenkins’ treatise on “What is Love?” , your post “I love you, Child” and this one on rash judgements. I’ve been reading Fulton Sheen’s “Victory Over Vice” first published in 1939 (I continue to lament how the devil obtained victory over him through his –Sheen’s — virtue of obedience). Only God knows a man’s intentions and motivations–even though so often a man doesn’t even know his own, how can he know another’s? Hanging from their crosses the two thieves may argue over why Our Lord allows Himself to hang there. But it is only the Divine, or maybe even those cooperating with His Grace, who knows a man’s intentions, or is wise enough not to judge them rashly. Only the One humiliated at Birth and at Death, Love Himself, The Logos, can offer Mercy so freely to the truly repentant. The Sacred Heart Mortally wounded yet blazing with His Love. As Sheen put it so eloquently and simply elsewhere, Our Lord is the only man born in history whose only purpose was to Die. How the manger foreshadowed the Cross!
The following is rather lengthy, so I’ll break it up a bit. Please edit as you feel appropriate.
NB: remember the following is by Fulton Sheen
Born between an ox and an ass, they now crucify Him between two criminals. That was the last insult they could give Him. To the public eye, they created the impression that three thieves, and not two, were silhouetted against the sky. In a certain sense, it was true: two stole gold out of avarice; one stole hearts out of love. Salvandus, Salvator, and Salvatus: the thief who could have been saved; the thief who was saved; and the Savior who saved them. The crosses spelled out the words envy, mercy, and pity. The thief on the left envied the power our blessed Lord claimed. As the chief priests, scribes, and ancients ridiculed the Savior, sneering: “He saved others; Himself He cannot save,” the thief on the left added to their revilings: “If Thou be Christ, save Thyself and us.” In other words: “If I had that power of Yours, that power You claim as the Messiah, I would use it differently than to hang helpless on a tree. I would step down from the Cross, smite my enemies, and prove what power really is.” Thus did envy reveal that if it had the gifts it envies in others, it would misuse them, as the thief on the left would have surrendered redemption from sin for release from a nail. In like manner, many in the world today who are envious of wealth would probably lose their souls if they had that wealth. Envy never thinks of responsibilities. Looking only to self, it misuses every gift that comes its way.
Pity has quite a different effect on the soul. The thief on the right had no envy of the Master’s power, but only pity for the Master’s sufferings. Rebuking his companion on the left, the good thief said, “Neither dost thou fear God, seeing thou art under the same condemnation? And we indeed, justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man hath done no evil.” There was not a spark of envy in him. He wanted nothing in all the world, not even to be removed from tragic companioning with his cross. He was not envious of God’s power, for God knows best what to do with His power. He was not envious of his fellowmen, for they had nothing worth giving. So he threw himself upon Divine Providence and asked only for forgiveness: “Lord, remember me when Thou shalt come into Thy kingdom.” A dying man asked a dying Man for life; a man without possessions asked a poor Man for a kingdom; a thief at the door of death asked to die a thief and steal Paradise. And because He envied nothing, He received all: “Amen, I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of redemption, but in the divine plan, it is a thief who steals that privilege and marches as the escort of the King of Kings into Paradise.
Two lessons are taught us by this Second Word from the Cross. The first is that envy is the source of our wrong judgments about others. The chances are that if we are envious of others, nine times out of ten we will misjudge their characters. Because the thief on the left was envious of the power of our Lord, he misjudged Him and missed both the divinity of the Savior and his own salvation. He falsely argued that power should always be used the way he would have used it —namely, to turn nails into rosebuds, a cross into a throne, blood into royal purple, and the blades of grass on the hillside into bayonets of offensive steel. No one in the history of the world ever came closer to Redemption, and yet no one ever missed it by so far. His envy made him ask for the wrong thing; he asked to be taken down when he should have asked to be taken up. It makes one think of how much the envy of Herod resulted in an equally false judgment: He massacred the Innocents because he thought the Infant King came to destroy an earthy kingdom, whereas He came only to announce a heavenly one.
So it is with us. Backbiting, calumny, and false judgments are all born of our envy. We say, “Oh, he is jealous,” or “She is jealous”; but how do we know that he or she is jealous unless we ourselves have felt that way? How do we know others are acting proudly unless we know how pride asserts itself? Every envious word is based on a false judgment of our own moral superiority. To sit in judgment makes us feel that we are above those who are judged and more righteous and more innocent than they. To accuse others is to say, “I am not like that.” To be envious of others is to say, “You have stolen that which is mine.”
Envy thus becomes the denial of all justice and love. In individuals, it develops a cynicism that destroys all moral values, for, by bankrupting others, we ourselves become bankrupt. In groups, it produces a deceit that extends the glad hand of welcome to those who differ, only until they are strong enough to cut it off.
A second lesson to be learned from this Second Word is that the only way to overcome envy is, like the thief on the right, to show pity. As Christians in good faith, we are all members of the Mystical Body of Christ and should therefore love one another as Christ has loved us………..And as potential brothers of Christ, sons of a heavenly Father, and children of Mary, they must be worth our pity since they were worth the Savior’s Blood.
Unfortunately, there are some who blame the Church for receiving great sinners into the Church on their deathbeds…..Why not rather rejoice in God’s mercy, for, after all, did he not belong to the same profession as the thief on the right —and why should not our Lord be just as anxious to save twentieth-century thieves as first-century thieves? They both have souls. It would seem that sinful envy of the salvation of a thief is a greater sin than thievery. One thief was saved: therefore, let no one despair. One thief was lost: therefore, let no one presume. Have pity, then, on the miserable, and divine mercy will be the reward for your pity. When the Pharisees accused our Lord of eating with publicans and sinners, He retorted by reiterating the necessity of mercy: “The healthy have no need of a physician, but the sick have. Now go and learn what this means: I will have mercy and not sacrifice. For I am not come to call the just, but sinners.”
One day a woman went to the saintly Father John Vianney, the Curé of Ars, in France, and said, “My husband has not been to the sacraments or to Mass for years. He has been unfaithful, wicked, and unjust. He has just fallen from a bridge and was drowned —a double death of body and soul.” The Curé answered, “Madam, there is a short distance between the bridge and the water, and it is that distance which forbids you to judge.” There was just that distance between the two crosses which saved the penitent thief. If the thief on the right had been self-righteous, he would have looked down on Jesus and lost his soul. But because he was conscious of his own sin, he left room for divine pardon. And the answer of the Redeemer to his request proves that to the merciful, love is blind; for if we love God and our neighbor, who may even be our enemy, Divine Love will go blind, as it did for the thief on the right. Christ will no longer be able to see our faults, and that blindness will be for us the dawn of the vision of Love.
And finally, I hope you find these many posts appropriate and a good addition to the conversation. I’m actually very excited to have found these posts of yours I mentioned so far above, because they’ve really helped me to ground what I’ve been reading, meditating on and praying for. I do fear, though, that I may be over-stepping or taking for granted that my additions to your blood g are welcome. Please do edit if you see the need. I defer to you, not only as my host, but as someone I respect and wish to draw into, time permitting of course, further conversation on these topics. I’m lucky to have been introduced to you in this way and thank you for your hospitality.
Sigh, autocorrect. ‘Blood g’ above should read ‘blog.’
These posts are absolutely fantastic additions to the conversation. Thank you so much for sharing! Your passion is admirable, and dare I say that I ENVY your devotion? 😉 Thank you for all the kind words here, good sir. I am extremely honored to have such an illuminated reader.