Wednesday, October 12, 2005

If the Shoe Fits...

By Mitchell

Well, the Gospel certainly packed a punch today, didn't it? Christ delivers one of His most pointed lessons on what it means to be a Christian. I've often thought this a perfect reading to apply to politicians who love the power but distain the people.

Sometimes, Fr. Tiffany said in his homily this morning, we tend to make the Gospel a little mushy; we present its talk of love with rounded edges so it doesn't hurt anyone. But that really does the Gospel a disservice, because the truth of the matter is that occasionally Christ gives us His love with a sharp edge; He reminds us of the responsibilities we assume when we become His followers. For when injustice exists and we are partners to it, even if less than enthusiastically, the judgement we face will be harsh.

Now, people often speak of the dangers of being judgmental, and yet Christ is certainly judging the Pharisees. And when the lawyer speaks up, saying, "You know, you're insulting us too," Jesus' answer is plain: Yes, I am. If the shoe fits...

Ah, some would say, but that's part of Christ's job description, as it were. After all, He's the One Who delivers the Final Judgment. For anyone else to pass judgment on someone is nothing more than playing God.

To that I would say, yes: if you're judging what's in another's heart. It's another thing entirely to judge someone's actions. You don't have to be saying that someone is evil, that they're headed straight to hell, simply by pointing out that what they're doing is wrong. In fact, we're called to correct our bretheren in a spirit of charity and fraternity in order to protect their souls. If we allow them to continue misguided behavior without trying to correct them, we assume a share of the responsibility for their actions.

So we have to be careful when judging someone's behavior to make sure that we do it in the right spirit, and that we don't confuse that person's deeds with their soul. It's true that the soul can break under the weight of accumulated sin, but ultimately it is Christ, and Christ alone, Who can truly read that soul.

However, that means also that we must not shirk from speaking out in favor of justice, of right and wrong. We must not let ourselves be intimidated into silence under fear of accusations of being "judgmental" or "mean-spirited." We must take care not to sugarcoat the Gospel, to compromise its teachings or distort its meanings for fear of "hurting someone's feelings." We must resist the temptation to water-down what the Church stands for in order to get along with others in a misguided spirit of Ecumenism. Wherever there is injustice: when the poor, the elderly, and the unborn are taken advantage of; when the worker is exploited; when the consumer is tempted and taken advantage of; when citizens are abused and lied to by their leaders; when immoral behavior runs rampant in society; it is times like this when we cannot afford to be silent. It's like the old saying, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. And to the extent that we cooperate with injustice through our own inaction, we're part of it as well.

We must be witnesses to the truth, not only in what we do but in what we say, and sometimes the truth can be painful. It was for the Pharisees, and it certainly was for the lawyer who challenged Jesus.

And it will be for us too, if we don't watch out.

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