Compassion, Not Judgement

In a few weeks the mid-term elections will be upon us. We are already being assaulted by a barrage of political ads which are high on pretense and low on truthfulness. Each candidate is vying with the other as he/she claims to be better than his/her opponent. While I am fully aware of the nature of these claims, I am uncomfortable with their sanctimonious attitude. No matter who runs for public office, the person’s character is scrutinized with a fine tooth-comb and their reputation is dragged through the mud. It is no wonder that so many good people decide not to enter the murky waters of politics.

These over-zealous scrutinies of political candidates often make me wonder whether we are electing a public official or looking to elevate someone to sainthood. The accusers who sit in judgment over the candidate are no better than the accused. Very often they hide behind a mask of perfection while they harbor deep fears that someone may unveil their own dark secrets. I wonder how many of those individuals never did anything that they regret or are ashamed of. At the bottom of this bi-annual circus is our inescapable tendency to judge others.

It is unfortunate that politicians and ordinary citizens refuse to hear the words of Jesus who said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.” How many so-called good Catholics were offended when Pope Francis declared, “Who am I to judge?” When I was a young boy someone said to me that when I point a finger at others, the other four are pointed towards me.

Then, why do we judge? It is human to judge. Both Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas say that the ability to judge enables us to live in and bring some order to our chaotic world. On any given day we encounter many persons and numerous objects. We need to classify them and place them in manageable groups. We determine what is good or bad, who is our friend or not. Without making judgments, it will be impossible to live in this world.

Jesus is not asking us to avoid this kind of judgment. We cannot deny that someone did something bad or someone hurt us. He is only asking us not second-guess their motives or dismiss them as worthless or bad. I cannot deny that someone stole something. However, I do not know why he did it. I am totally ignorant of where he came from. When we judge we claim to know more about the person than the action that we witnessed.

When we judge someone – and even more when we condemn someone – we come from a place of pride. Implicitly we state that we are better than that person and therefore we have a right to criticize him/her. We refuse to look at our own sins and failures. We are oblivious to the many times God and others have forgiven us. This is why Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The more we are aware of our own sins – in other words, the more humble we are – the more compassionate we become.

Refusing to be judgmental is not turning a blind eye to the evils in our world. It is not complicity with immorality. It is not lack of courage. We recognize the evils of abortion and the degradation of our permissive and promiscuous culture. We cannot turn a blind eye to all the bad things that are perpetrated everyday in our society. However, we do not dismiss anyone because they committed those acts or call them evil. God does not throw away a person just because of the sins he or she has committed. There is always hope for forgiveness. As Christians, we choose the path of compassion. It is the road that Jesus walked.

We are called to propose virtue, not to police it. As Christians we do not play the role of quality control inspectors. I have often said that the Church is not Club Med where people come to show off their perfectly-shaped bodies; we are Cook County General where all of us need the Eternal Physician to a lesser or a greater degree. Hence we are a people of compassion. We uphold the ideals of the gospel; we do not police them. We leave the judgment to God. He alone knows the hearts of people. He alone knows fully their history, their motives and their struggles. His understanding is beyond comprehension and His mercy knows no bounds.

Years ago at a conference I heard the speaker say: “A holy person is one in whose presence you recognize your sacredness.” Jesus is epitome of this definition of holiness. Sinners and prostitutes felt sacred in His presence. He never condemned anyone. He never demonized anyone. The degree of our sanctity is directly proportional to the degree of our compassion. If we are compassionate and forgiving towards others in this world, the Lord will be very generous towards us at the Pearly Gates.

Please keep praying for the Church.

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

320 South Washington Street
Park Ridge, IL 60068

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Phone: (847) 825-7605

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