Becoming Merciful like God through Judging Not Others But Ourselves, Second Monday of Lent, March 2, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the Second Week of Lent
March 2, 2015
Dan 9:4-10, Ps 79, Lk 6:36-38

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • As we’ve been pondering for the last 12 days, the whole purpose of Lent is to become like God the Father. Today Jesus begins the Gospel by encouraging and commanding us to be merciful as God the Father is merciful. God is merciful love (hesed) and he who is rich in mercy wants to help us to become not only rich through our receiving that mercy but richer still in our sharing it. But the path God choose to help us to become rich in mercy is at first glance surprising and paradoxical. Right after Jesus tells us to be merciful like his Father, he says, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven,” before proceeding to summarize everything by saying, “For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.” If we’re merciful, most people interpret the text to say, we won’t judge other people. Mercy and judging seem to be polar opposites.
  • But they’re not. The key is to understand whom we should be judging, because it is precisely through judging that we open ourselves up to God’s mercy and the transformation that always accompanies that gift. Pope Francis took up this theme in his homily this morning at the St. Martha Domus in the Vatican. He said that we can only progress on our Christian journey in life if we are capable of judging ourselves first. “We are all sinners,” he said, “not in theory but in reality,” but we need the ability to judge ourselves to be sinners in need of God’s mercy. We need to say, “I accuse myself!” We need to pray, as we do at the beginning of each Mass, “I have greatly sinned … by my own … most grievous fault.” Pope Francis says that many of us spend time judging others rather than accusing ourselves. ““We are all masters, professors of self-justification: ‘No it wasn’t me, it’s not my fault.’ … We all have an alibi to explain away our shortcomings, our sins, and we are often to put on a face that says ‘I do not know,’ a face that says ‘I didn’t do it, maybe someone else did,’ an innocent face. This is no way to lead a Christian life.” He continued, “It’s easier to blame others” but something important happens when “we begin to look at the things we are capable of doing: at first we “feel bad, we feel disgusted,” yet this in turn “gives us peace and makes us healthy.” The Pope said, “If we do not learn this first step in life, we will never, never be able to take other steps on the road of our Christian life, of our spiritual life. The first step is to judge ourselves. Without saying anything out loud. Between you and your conscience. Walking down the street, I pass by a prison and say: ‘Well, they deserve it’ – Yet do you know that if it weren’t for the grace of God you would be there? Did you ever think that you are capable of doing the things that they have done, even worse? This is what judging yourself means, not hiding from the roots of sin that are in all of us, the many things we are capable of doing, even if we cannot seen them.”
  • Once we begin to judge ourselves as the sinners we are, we can open ourselves to God’s mercy because we’ll recognize how much and why we need it. C.S. Lewis once said that the two essential truths of Christianity are that we’re sinners and that Jesus has come to save us from our sins. We can’t appreciate God’s mercy unless we recognize how desperate we are for it. And once we recognize how much we need it, then we can be compassionate on others who need it to. The way we stop judging and condemning others is when we recognize that but for God’s grace we would be under the very same judgment and condemnation because we, too, are sinners who have murdered Christ through our sins just as much as others have.
  • But while judging ourselves instead of others is the first step, it’s not the last. The second step is a capacity to do reparation for our sins and the sins of others. One of the greatest aspects of the Divine Mercy Devotion requested by Jesus through St. Faustina is that we beg God the Father for mercy “in expiation for our sins and those of the whole world.” We see through judging ourselves that we’re all in a similar boat and hence we pray for our sins and those of others. That’s what we see the Prophet Daniel and the Psalmist doing today. Daniel was a prophet in Babylon and was certainly not guilty of all of the sins that brought the people into exile. But yet he prayed in their name to the Lord with the first person plural. He was praying for his sins and everyone’s, because they were all contributing factors leading to the exile. He implored, “We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side — [in other words, we have no excuses!] —  we are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you. … We rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O Lord, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.” That was a forceful collective self-accusation. He wasn’t apologizing for the sins of “others” in the third person, but for all the sins, including himself among the sinners.
  • But he didn’t lose hope because of those sins. That’s why he prayed, “But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!” God’s nature is to be merciful. And it was the same sentiment that led us to cry out with the Psalmist, “Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.” We prayed in the verses of the Psalm, “Remember not against us the iniquities of the past; may your compassion quickly come to us, for we are brought very low. Help us, O God our savior, because of the glory of your name; Deliver us and pardon our sins for your name’s sake.” Notice that there’s no sense of entitlement in this prayer. But we are asking God to forgive us because of his merciful and glorious name, he who is kind and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. We don’t deserve forgiveness, but God extends it nevertheless because that’s who he is.
  • This judging of ourselves and praying in collective reparation are two great lessons for us to learn in Lent. We’re called sincerely to beat our breasts and come to confession, accusing ourselves, not excusing ourselves, of the ways by thought, word, deed and omission we have not lived in communion with God. And we’re called to do reparation for our and others’ sins, because there’s much to repair in our families, parish, communities, nation and world. There is so much for which we need to say, “Sorry, Lord!” and “Do not treat us as our sins deserve,” the sins of abortion, the deconstruction of the family, hardness of heart toward Christ in the disguise of immigrants and the poor, taking the Lord for granted even on the Lord’s day, the murder of so many people for various reasons, and so many other grievous sins. We begin him to bring his compassion quickly to us because we have been brought very low.
  • And God hears that prayer. Today at Mass he enfleshes his Mercy in the person of his Son, whom we’re about to receive. God the Father doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, but treats us with the love he has for his Son who gave his life in justice and mercy to save our own.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 DN 9:4B-10

“Lord, great and awesome God,
you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you
and observe your commandments!
We have sinned, been wicked and done evil;
we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws.
We have not obeyed your servants the prophets,
who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes,
our fathers, and all the people of the land.
Justice, O Lord, is on your side;
we are shamefaced even to this day:
we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem,
and all Israel, near and far,
in all the countries to which you have scattered them
because of their treachery toward you.
O LORD, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers,
for having sinned against you.
But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!
Yet we rebelled against you
and paid no heed to your command, O LORD, our God,
to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 79:8, 9, 11 AND 13

R. (see 103:10a) Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.
Let the prisoners’ sighing come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
through all generations we will declare your praise.
R. Lord, do not deal with us according to our sins.

Verse Before The Gospel SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life;
you have the words of everlasting life.

Gospel LK 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.“Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”RJL St. Peter's