Seeing Clearly So That We Can Help Others Recover Their Vision, Twelfth Monday (II), June 23, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass for Vocations to the Religious Life Praying for Nora Popp
June 23, 2014
2 Kings 17:5-8.13-15.18, Ps 60, Mt 7:1-5

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


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we encounter one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted passages in the Gospel, Jesus’ words, “Stop judging that you may not be judged.” Since we’re called to live Jesus’ teachings and spread them, it’s important for us to understand what he means. But let’s begin by focusing on what he doesn’t mean.
  • Jesus doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t judge between right and wrong and leave all of that judging exclusively to God. He’s given us the moral law precisely so that we can make moral judgments about actions. In today’s first reading, we see how he judges the actions of the Israelites at the time of the Assyrian invasion. Israel in the north and Samaria in the center of the Holy Land were both run over by the Assyrians “because the children of Israel sinned against the Lord their God,” the Second Book of Kings tells us, “and because they venerated other gods.”  What they did was wrong. God saw it and wants us to see it. On Saturday we see how Pope Francis publicly judged the conduct of the mafia, pronounced it evil and said that it severs one’s communion with God. He’s regularly judging and condemning the sin of gossip, the sin of corruption, the sin of insensitivity to the needs of the poor, and several others. So when he says, “Who am I to judge?,” as he did returning from Brazil last year, what he doesn’t mean is that he or we or anyone can’t judge actions to be in conformity with God’s law or not. We can judge the act of firemen risking their life to save people in a burning building to be good. We can judge the act of Muslim fundamentalists attacking Catholic Churches in Africa or beheading innocent people in Iraq to be evil.
  • That brings us to what Jesus does tell us not to do. He tells us not to judge people, but to leave that to God. We can see that externally their action conforms or not to what God has taught us or in conscience we know to be good or evil, but we can’t judge them, since we can never know everything that is going on inside of them. We don’t know all the interior facts. This judging doesn’t just mean not judging negatively — it certainly means that — but also not judging positively. While many Catholics are resistant to judge someone to be in Hell, for example, far fewer resist judging someone to be in heaven and immediately pronounce others to be in a “better place.” Except in the case of a canonized saint, we can really do neither, but entrust people to God’s judgment and mercy.
  • Instead of judging our neighbor, Jesus wants us to love our neighbor, and to do that, he tells us, we need humbly to recognize that often the temptation to judge our neighbor comes from a desire to deflect the attention from our own thoughts and behavior. He says, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” Jesus recognizes that many times we judge our neighbor as a superior to an inferior, failing to grasp that we ourselves are sinners, too. He wants us to adopt a totally different perspective, that when we see our neighbor’s errant behavior, to use it as an opportunity to examine our own, because often we’re guilty of similar behavior. Compulsive judgmentalism distorts our perception. He wants us to take out our own planks. This obviously is a call to examination of conscience, contrition, sacramental confession and conversion. Once our planks are gone, then we can start to see with the eyes of faith, the eyes of mercy, the eyes of charity.
  • Jesus wants to help us to see clearly so that from there we can really love and help our brothers and sisters, especially when they need it. Once our planks our removed — once we recognize that we, too, are sinners who have needed to be forgiven by God — that we can with humility share the mercy we’ve received with others, helping them to see that their vision may be distorted, helping them to correct behavior when it is choosing darkness rather than the light. But after we’ve seen our own sins and weaknesses, we’ll be able to help our neighbor not as an enemy seeking revenge, but as a doctor applying a cure, in many cases the same medicine we’ve needed and received from God. The Pharisees used to criticize harshly from above. Jesus wants us to measure out the measure of mercy we’ve received from God.
  • There are two applications of today’s readings I’d like to ponder. The first is to the Fortnight for Freedom in which we’re now engaged with Catholics across the country. It’s certainly possible for us to pronounce on the immorality of actions and policies, but we must remember that we are to do so not as finger-waggers or as enemies but as loving brothers and sisters. This is hard to do, especially when people seem to be bent on evil. But we need to look at them with the eyes of the Lord, and that will help us to be more successful, not less.
  • The second application is to religious life. Today we’re celebrating a Votive Mass or Religious Vocations praying in a particular way for the vocation of Nora Popp, one of our daily Mass goers who tomorrow is entering the Carmelite Monastery in Barrington, RI. One of the most important gifts of religious life is that it helps the entire Church to take out some of the biggest redwoods from our vision, the most opaque obstacles to looking at things with the vision of faith. We’re so often blinded by the three-fold concupiscence of the lust for pleasure, the lust for power, fame and control, the lust for things. Religious teach the whole world how to be chaste by seeking to love Christ purely and showing that one can have a truly loving life without human romance. Religious teach the whole world how to be rich in what pertains to God, but treasuring his kingdom above all material possessions, selling all they have to obtain Jesus, the pearl of great price. Religious teach the whole world that obedience to God is the foundation of all true freedom, because our freedom is always meant to be oriented toward the truth and toward the good. Religious also teach us about the importance of community life against our exaggerated addiction to independence. They teach us about the importance of charity, praying for, teaching, caring for, and serving others with the love of Christ. They help all of us to see clearly because they remind us of the importance of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ. We thank the Lord for the vocation he has given Nora and we thank Nora for her courageous decision to say “fiat” to the Lord’s call and follow him into Carmel.
  • Every morning the Lord Jesus gives us an eye check up here at Mass. He purifies our vision in the truth of his word and then helps us to keep our eyes on him, the Lamb of God who takes away our sins and the sins of the world so that we may see clearly, see things as they really are, see things as he sees them, and go out to help others see, too. As we prepare to enter into holy Communion with him through the reception of his body and blood, we remember that he seeks not only to help us remove all obstacles from our vision, but to give us an eye transplant so that we see as he does, looking on the crowds with compassion, not judgment, and seeking to bring them to the unobstructed beatific vision to which he has done so much to make possible for us.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
2 KGS 17:5-8, 13-15A, 18

Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, occupied the whole land
and attacked Samaria, which he besieged for three years.
In the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel
the king of Assyria took Samaria,
and deported the children of Israel to Assyria,
setting them in Halah, at the Habor, a river of Gozan,
and the cities of the Medes.This came about because the children of Israel sinned against the LORD,
their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt,
from under the domination of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
and because they venerated other gods.
They followed the rites of the nations
whom the LORD had cleared out of the way of the children of Israel
and the kings of Israel whom they set up.And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah
by every prophet and seer,
“Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes,
in accordance with the entire law which I enjoined on your fathers
and which I sent you by my servants the prophets,”
they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers,
who had not believed in the LORD, their God.
They rejected his statutes,
the covenant which he had made with their fathers,
and the warnings which he had given them, till,
in his great anger against Israel,
the LORD put them away out of his sight.
Only the tribe of Judah was left.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 60:3, 4-5, 12-13

R. (7b) Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us.
O God, you have rejected us and broken our defenses;
you have been angry; rally us!
R. Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us.
You have rocked the country and split it open;
repair the cracks in it, for it is tottering.
You have made your people feel hardships;
you have given us stupefying wine.
R. Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us.
Have not you, O God, rejected us,
so that you go not forth, O God, with our armies?
Give us aid against the foe,
for worthless is the help of men.
R. Help us with your right hand, O Lord, and answer us.

MT 7:1-5

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.
For as you judge, so will you be judged,
and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.
Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye,
but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother,
‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’
while the wooden beam is in your eye?
You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first;
then you will see clearly
to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”