On a recent classroom discussion on current moral issues, one of the participants remarked, “Didn’t Pope Francis say, “Who am I to judge?” These words are obviously taken out of the context in which the Pope used them in discussing passing judgment on a priest who had repented of his sins against chastity. Unfortunately, this has now become a mantra that somehow suggests that the Pope can, and has, dispensed us from using our judging faculty when it comes to moral issues. It appears it is somewhat okay to make judgments constantly in everyday life decisions but not acceptable to make judgments about right and wrong in morality. “Who am I to judge?” has become a tacit escape from the responsibility of confronting moral evil in the world and an excuse to condone the most sinful things in our society especially in the areas of sexuality and human life.
In the First Reading, we find Samuel on a mission to anoint the successor of King Saul. He begins to judge between Jesse’s sons based on their physical appearances. God does not prohibit Samuel’s human judgment but reminds him of the due limits of human judgment and the dependence of human judgment on divine light for sound judgment: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearances but the Lord looks into the heart.” It is the Lord who actually selects David as King, enlightening and guiding Samuel to make the right choice between Jesse’s sons. Enlightened with light from above, Samuel discovers God’s chosen king, concurs and “anoints David in the presence of his brothers.” God enlightens and uses the judgment of Samuel in this very important task. There is no discarding of human judgments here but divine light enlightening human judgment to make choices that are pleasing to God.
As human beings created in the image and likeness of God, we must and we should judge human actions and tell what is right from what is wrong based on what we perceive alone. Besides, God enlightens us to make right moral judgments. But God alone judges the human heart because He alone can look into the heart of man and ascertain the true intentions, the heart’s health or sickness, its deepest desires, and levels of freedom of the human heart. When it comes to the inner workings and movements of the heart of other peoples, we do not have the right or the ability to make such judgments.
St. Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus about the enlightenment that they have received through their union with Christ in baptism. By the grace of baptism, Christians are “no longer in darkness but are now light in the Lord” and now are called to live as “children of light.” Having been enlightened in baptism, Christians can and should make judgments about “goodness, righteousness and truth” without compromise. By virtue of this ability to make enlightened judgments about good and evil, right and wrong, Christians can and should “learn what is pleasing to the Lord, take no part in the fruitless works of darkness, and expose the works of darkness.”
Our Christian vocation thus brings a greater urgency to judge good from evil and to show them for what they really are. However, this enlightenment that has made us “light in the Lord” still does not give us the ability or the right to judge the hearts of others; but we are enabled to make moral judgments that are pleasing to God and edifying to others in society no matter the moral climate of the society. As the letter to the Romans attest: “Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, pleasing and perfect.” (Rom 12:2) Since our mind have been renewed in baptism, we Christians can no longer hide behind the statement, “Who am I to judge?” when it comes to morality.
The Gospel shows the healing of the man born blind. Jesus healed him and gave him the sight he never had before. Having received his sight, this man makes some courageous judgments. When asked by the Jews what he thought about Jesus, he made a judgment based on Jesus’ actions, “He is a prophet.” On the other hand, the Pharisees condemned Jesus and pretended they could read His Sacred Heart: “We know that this man is a sinner.” The healed man does not attempt to judge the heart of the Jews or the heart of Jesus: “If he is a sinner, I do not know.” But, based on Jesus’ actions in his life, he makes his judgment that this man (Jesus) “must have come from God” because “it is unheard of that anyone ever opened the eyes of a person born blind.” He gives witness to Jesus even though the Jews had made it clear that all who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ would be expelled from the synagogue. Lastly, He makes a confession of faith before Jesus: “I do believe, Lord” and then worships Him. He made a judgment to worship the God-Man Jesus Christ in full view of the skeptical Jews. This man did not bother judging the hearts of others but, receiving sight from Him who is the Light of the world, he made judgments that were pleasing to Jesus and edifying to others.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, there are souls today who do not have the divine light that we have received in Holy Baptism to give them the supernatural help they need to make good judgments. There are souls today who do not see the grave danger of the choices that they are making and they make a boast out of their vices and sins. Our world has become insensitive to the divine majesty that is offended through sin. How can we continue to say, “Who am I to judge?” in the face of the many sins against human life in all its stages, the exploitation of women and children in human trafficking, the widespread acceptance of diverse depraved sexual practices, the unbridled greed and myriad forms of injustice in the global arena? Tolerance has become the highest virtue of our times. However, the new life of baptism demands that we Christians now answer the question, “Who am I not to judge?”
When we are tempted to revert to “Who am I to judge?” in the face of moral evil, we must remember that the Spirit that we received in baptism is giving to us to “lead us to all truth” and not to make us loved and accepted by the world. Our salvation depends on how willing we are to tell the truth in love and to be good and hopeful examples of sound judgment to others as St. James teaches us, “Whoever brings back a sinner from the errors of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”(James5:20)
In this Eucharist, Christ comes into our world for judgment “so that those who do not see might see.” In the words of St. Paul in Sunday’s Second Reading, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” In and through baptism, we have “arisen from the sleep of death,” and “Christ has indeed given us light.” Our baptismal grace is deepened in this Eucharist because Christ touches us again, filling us with Hisown light and strength. A world in sin and confusion eagerly awaits our good examples and words of truth flowing from enlightened judgments that are pleasing to God. Let God alone judge the hearts of men. Our part is to bear the true light of Christ in our world. Thus the last thing that the world needs to hear from us Christians as regards human actions are those truly uncaring words, “Who am I to judge?”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!