Judge not

Anthony Zimmerman
Reproduced with Permission

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye (Matt 7:1-4).

The first response that Saint Chrysostom gives to the above passage in his sermon 23 on Matthew is: "What then? Ought we not to blame them that sin?" He answers that such is not the point that Christ makes here. Christ wants us to not neglect our own faults while being quick to blame others. When you yourself deserve blame for much evil, don't be a "bitter censor of other men's offenses, and especially when these are trifling. He is not overthrowing reproof nor correction, but forbidding men to neglect their own faults, and exult over those of other men."

Note that Christ, son of Joseph the carpenter, uses a carpenter's image here: if you have a wooden beam in your eye, first get that cleared out of your eye before you try to find the speck of sawdust in the eye of your neighbor. The eye is one's attitude and one's criterion for judging. When judging another, this is to be done not with malice and ill will, but with love, the love by which we love our neighbor as ourselves. Furthermore, the final judgment must always be left to God.

Chrysostom believes that Christ may have had some of the Jews in mind who will blame the disciples for things like not washing hands, whereas it is they who will commit the great sin of not believing in Him and will even crucify Him.

And I think that certain Jews too are here hinted at, for that while they were bitter accusing their neighbors for small faults, and such as came to nothing, they were themselves insensibly committing deadly sins. Herewith towards the end also He was upbraiding them, when He said, "Ye bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, but ye will not move them with your finger," and, "ye pay tithe of mint and anise, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith."

The measure you measure with

"The measure you give will be the measure you get" is very plain language from Jesus, who will be the Judge of the living and of the dead on the Last Day. As Chrysostom observes, it is we who set the standard by which God judges us: if we forgive our neighbors generously, God will forgive us generously. If we judge our neighbors with the heart of a brother, God will judge us also in a big-hearted manner: "As then in the forgiveness of our sins the beginnings are from us, so also in this judgment, it is by ourselves that the measures of our condemnation are laid down. You see, we ought not to upbraid nor trample upon them, but to admonish; not to revile, but to advise; not to assail with pride, but to correct with tenderness" (Sermon 23).

We know that the day will come "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left" (Matt 25:31-33), We too will stand before Him, waiting in line for our turn. If Jesus then turns to us and says: "You cheated here, you were real mean there, you scandalized all those people, you ruined that man's reputation, you fornicated, you committed abortion, you drank too much, you did all these things." We stand and listen, and recognize that it is all true.

And then we can look up with bright and innocent faces to the Judge and say: "But look, I forgave that cheater here, and I was real kind to that person there, and I did give good example to another, and I was mostly faithful, and I confessed my abortion, and I sobered up. Please remember what you once said: "The measure you give will be the measure you get." When Jesus hears us challenge Him with His own words, hopefully He will take His shepherds crook and move us from the side of the goats to the side of the sheep saying: "Yes, I did say that, and because you used a generous measure to forgive others, I will use an even more generous measure to forgive you." How fortunate we will be then when Christ speaks the final words: "Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world'" (Matt 25:34).

Do not give what is holy to dogs

Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you (Matt 7:6).

Saint Chrysostom (Sermon 23) comments that by dogs Christ indicates those who are living in "incurable ungodliness" and by swine "them that abide continually in an unchaste life, all of whom He hath pronounced unworthy of hearing such things." The apostles should not waste time preaching to people who are not listening to learn something, but wanting to only to find new reasons to attack the message of the Gospel. We see an example of this in Christ's life when the High Priest questioned Him: "The high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" But Jesus was silent" (Matt:26:62). Clearly, the court was not wishing to hear the truth but only trying to find reason to accuse Jesus.

Saint Cyprian (d. 251) wisely did not try to convert his persecutor judge to Christianity, but told him to get on with his business of cutting off his head. The Office of Readings for Sept. 16 gives this account:

The governor said: "Our most venerable emperors have commanded you to perform the religious rites." Bishop Cyprian replied: "I will not do so." Galerius Maximus said: "Consider your position." Cyprian replied: "Follow your orders. To such a just cause there is no need for deliberation.... Next (the governor) read the sentence from a tablet: "It is decided that Thascius Cyprian should die by the sword." Cyprian responded: "Thanks be to God." Soon he was in heaven. He had not wasted time arguing with the judge.

Shall we argue with politicians who promote abortion? I like what Archbishop Chaput wrote recently:

How to tell a duck from a fox
Thinking with the Church as we look toward November
"If it quacks like a duck and looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it's probably a duck. A fox can claim to be a duck all day long. But he's still a fox."

Archbishop Chaput then wrote about "Catholic senators who take pride in arguing for legislation that threatens and destroys life -- and who then also take Communion" (Denver Catholic Register, April 14, 2004). Obviously we waste our time casting pro-life pearls before senators who have sold their souls to pro-abortion politics. The polling booth is the only language that affects them.

We can go on: don't teach natural family planning to people who work for Planned Parenthood. One Archbishop advised all members of his Archdiocese to quit jobs at PP clinics. The effect was immediate: more than half of the eighteen clinics closed shop. Will Supreme Court Judges who favor Roe listen to your arguments that human life begins when God creates it at the time of fertilization? They don't want to know when life begins. "A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still." Christ gave good advice: if those before you are dogs afflicted with "incurable ungodliness" don't waste time arguing with them.

But what appears to be hopeless is not always so. Saint Monica prayed until her son, Saint Augustine, responded to the grace of God. Alcoholics and dope addicts and sodomists are able to convert and to remain on course, as many do, often with the help of their spouses.

Baptism of children whose parents are not practicing

Baptism is a gift from God, but if people despise the gift, God does not foist it on them and their infants. The Church instructs us to not baptize children unless there is at least some outlook that their parents or guardians will educate them in the faith:

Canon 868 #2: For an infant to be baptised lawfully it is required: That there be a realistic hope that the child will be brought up in the catholic religion. If such hope is truly lacking, the baptism is, in accordance with the provisions of particular law, to be deferred and the parents advised of the reason for this.

Pastors endeavor, of course, to remedy the situation by kindly inviting the parents to instructions and motivating them to practice the faith, so that he can then baptize the child in accordance with this Canon.

Why are we born in a state deprived of Sanctifying Grace?

God endowed our first parents with the pearl of sanctifying grace, but does not throw this gift at us who are born after our primal ancestors committed original sin. God may be thinking like the Church thinks in Canon 868 #2: First show that you value this pearl, then come forward to receive it through Baptism, and bring your children also.

Had our first parents not committed original sin, and had their offspring never done so, and if the entire human race would then, as one community, cultivate His friendship and obey the Ten Commandments, then, in view of that happy spiritual environment God could reasonably endow us with the state of grace when we are born into that nurturing community. But what do we do? Psalm 14 states the unhappy reality:

The fool has said in his heart:
"There is no god above."
Their deeds are corrupt, depraved;
not a good man is left.

From heaven the Lord looks down
on the sons of men
to see if any are wise,
if any seek God.

All have left the right path,
depraved every one,
there is not a good man left,
no, not even one.

The Psalmist was exaggerating, of course, and was blaming the Israelites whom God had punished for their awful sinfulness that brought on the Babylonian Exile. But when God looks down from heaven today he does not see a human race that is united worldwide in a no-nonsense endeavor and common pursuit of keeping of the Ten Commandments. Unless and until we change that, the working of original sin will continue. God will sensibly deprive us of grace until we volunteer to come forward to receive this pearl. That original sin persists is not the fault of God; is our fault.

Saint Chrysostom: corrupt behavior blocks out growth in faith

If people live a corrupt life, then that "is the cause of men's not receiving the more perfect doctrines. . . . Indeed, they become more insolent after learning" (Chrysostom, Sermon 23). We have a corresponding proverb that the worst corruption is that of the best people: "Corruptio optimorum pessima." We think of one time Mass server Stalin, for example. We think of King Henry the 8th, the former "Defender of the Faith." Today we think of Catholics for a Free Choice, of doctors who kill babies, of terrorists who feed on their trade. Saint Chrysostom knew all this very well in his day and he said so in plain words in the sermon:

For nothing results, beyond greater mischief to them that are so disposed when they hear; for both the holy things are profaned by them, not knowing what they are; and they are the more lifted up and armed against us. For this is meant by, "lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you." And full well did He say, "turn again and rend you:" for they feign gentleness, so as to be taught: then after they have learnt, quite changing from one sort to another, they jeer, mock and deride us, as deceived persons.... It is not, you see, that those truths furnish them with armor, but they become fools in this way of their own accord, being filled with more willfulness (Sermon 23 on Matthew. Logos CD).

Chrysostom said that for such determined sinners it is best to "abide in ignorance," for so they are not such entire scorners." That is, more knowledge would only increase their insolence and guilt. He also observed that Mass (in his day) was celebrated with closed doors, to keep out the uninitiated. He preached the 90 homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew in the main church of Antioch in Syria, before he became Patriarch of Constantinople in 397. He is known as the very greatest of the pulpit oratorers of all time. "He remains the most charming of the Greek Fathers and one of the most congenial personalities of Christian antiquity. His rare gift of eloquence gained him the proud title of "Chrysostom" "Gold Mouth" (Quasten, Patrology III, p. 429).

The thought comes to me: if Chrysostom were celebrating Mass in one of the Cathedrals today - be it Washington, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago - and if ostentatious homos sporting "Rainbow Sashes" would come for Holy Communion, or politicians who notoriously legislate for abortion - what would Chrysostom do? I think he would say: "Don't come, because you know what I am going to have to do." As Saint Ambrose (d. 420) signaled to Emperor Theodosius: "The Emperor is within the Church, not above it." Saint Ambrose let be known that he would refuse the sacraments to Catholic Emperor Theodosius because of a notorious public crime, unless the Emperor would first perform a severe public penance - which Theodosius did, and then received the sacraments again. Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Ambrose, pray for us.

Do good, Lord, to those who are good,
to the upright of heart;
but the crooked and those who do evil,
drive them away! (Ps. 125)