iPray with the Gospel: I Will Make You Fishers of Men

Jesus saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Matthew 4:12-23

Dear Apostles, what an astonishing reaction of yours. We don’t know ‘why’ Jesus decided to choose you and no others. We don’t know of any special talents you had or whether you could write, read, speak in public or answer basic religious questions about your faith… But there is something we know about you. When Jesus called you, you responded immediately. We don’t know what Jesus saw in you but maybe it was just that: that you were ready to say ‘Yes’ without delay. Perhaps Jesus called many others, but only you twelve were ready to leave everything and follow Him immediately.

Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, Nathanael, all the Apostles!…Your reaction is astonishing. There was no dialogue, no negotiation, no questions and answers. You just left everything to follow Jesus and you didn’t care where or how, what for or for how long, who else was coming with you, what you would eat or drink or wear, where you would sleep, whether you would have holidays of any kind or a salary…

God could count on you, His Apostles, because you trusted Him. You help to understand it well: in God’s projects, you don’t see the plan and then follow Him; you follow Him and then you see His plan. We could say that in God’s plans, the ‘light switch’ is behind the door. You need to enter the room in darkness, to grope along the wall until you find the switch, turn on the light and, then, you see the room into which God called you. We don’t follow our vocation when we are 100% sure, because we can only be 100% sure when we first ‘follow’ it. Peter, Andrew, James, John and all the other Apostles, I ask your help today, with the powerful intercession of Mary, Queen of Apostles, to be able to follow God immediately, leaving behind everything He asks me to.


By Rev. George Boronat

Link: http://stjosemaria.org/ipray-fishers-of-men/

Pope Francis: Get moving if you want to follow Jesus

 

Commenting on the Gospel account of the paralytic who is lowered from the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching, the Pope said people follow Jesus out of self interest or because they are looking for a comforting word. Even if no intention is totally pure or perfect, he said, the important thing is to follow Jesus. People were drawn to Him because of the “things He said and the way he said them. They understood Him. He healed them and many people followed Him to be healed”.

There were times, said Pope Francis, when Jesus admonished people who were more interested in their own well-being than in the Word of God.

Don’t be Christians to look at life from the balcony and judge others

There were other times, continued the Pope, when people wanted to make Jesus King, thinking He was “the perfect politician!”. But they were wrong and Jesus “went away and hid”. Even so, the Lord let anyone follow Him because He knew that we are all sinners.

The bigger problem, confirmed the Pope, “was not with those who followed Jesus”, but with those who stayed where they were.

“Those who didn’t move…and watched. They were sitting down…watching from the balcony. Their life was not a journey: their life was a balcony! From there they never took risks. They just judged. They were pure and wouldn’t get involved. But their judgements were severe. In their hearts they said: What ignorant people! What superstitious people! How often, when we see the piety of simple people, are we too subject to that clericalism that hurts the Church so much”.

Reflecting on those who don’t move in their lives, Pope Francis referenced the man who “sat beside the pool for 38 years, without moving, embittered by life, without hope…someone else who failed to follow Jesus and had no hope”.

Encountering Jesus means taking risks

But those who did follow Jesus, continued the Pope, were ready to risk in order to meet Him, in order to “find what they wanted”. Going back to the day’s Gospel reading, Pope Francis said “the men who made a hole in the roof took a risk”. They risked the owner of the house suing them and taking them to court to pay for the damages.

They were ready to risk because “they wanted to go to Jesus”.

The woman who was sick took a risk when she furtively touched the hem of Jesus’ cloak: she risked being ridiculed. But she risked: because she wanted to be cured, “she wanted to reach Jesus. Remember the Canaanite woman: women risk more than men do! That’s true: they are better at it! We have to admit that”.

Following Jesus, the Pope went on, “isn’t easy, but it’s wonderful! And it’s always a risk”. There are times, he said, when we risk “being ridiculous”. But we achieve what counts: “our sins are forgiven”. Beneath whatever request we are making, whether it be for good health or for a solution to a problem, “there’s the desire to be healed in spirit, to be forgiven”. All of us know we are sinners, said Pope Francis, “and that’s why we follow Jesus: to meet Him. So we take risks”.

Beware of a soul that is static, closed and without hope

Let’s ask ourselves, concluded Pope Francis: “Do I take risks, or do I follow Jesus according to the rules of my insurance company?” Because “that’s not the way to follow Jesus. That way you don’t move, like those who judge”.

Do we follow Jesus because we need something, or do we follow Him because we are ready to risk? “This is faith: trusting in Jesus, having faith in Jesus. And with this faith in Him, these men cut a hole in the roof and lowered the stretcher down in front of Jesus so he could cure the sick man”. “Do I put my faith in Jesus?”, asked the Pope. “Do I entrust my life to Jesus? Am I walking behind Jesus even if sometimes I seem ridiculous? Or am I sitting still, watching what others are doing?” Am I watching life with a soul that is static, “with a soul that is closed with bitterness and lack of hope? We should each be asking ourselves these questions today”.

Link: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/01/13/pope_francis_get_moving_if_you_want_to_follow_jesus/1285450

The Pope’s homily on the feast of the Epiphany

Pope Francis presided over Mass for the feast of the Epiphany which was celebrated on Friday in St Peter’s Basilica.

Below is an English translation of the Pope’s homily.

“Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?  For we have observed his star in the East, and have come to worship him” (Mt 2:2).

With these words, the Magi, come from afar, tell us the reason for their long journey: they came to worship the newborn King.  To see and to worship.  These two actions stand out in the Gospel account.  We saw a star and we want to worship.

These men saw a star that made them set out.  The discovery of something unusual in the heavens sparked a whole series of events.  The star did not shine just for them, nor did they have special DNA to be able to see it.  As one of the Church Fathers rightly noted, the Magi did not set out because they had seen the star, but they saw the star because they had already set out (cf. Saint John Chrysostom).  Their hearts were open to the horizon and they could see what the heavens were showing them, for they were guided by an inner restlessness.  They were open to something new.

The Magi thus personify all those who believe, those who long for God, who yearn for their home, their heavenly homeland.  They reflect the image of all those who in their lives have not let their hearts become anesthetized.

A holy longing for God wells up in the heart of believers because they know that the Gospel is not an event of the past but of the present.  A holy longing for God helps us keep alert in the face of every attempt to reduce and impoverish our life.  A holy longing for God is the memory of faith, which rebels before all prophets of doom.  That longing keeps hope alive in the community of believers, which from week to week continues to plead: “Come, Lord Jesus”.

This same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms.  This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace.  This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost.  Mary Magdalen experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master.  Longing for God draws us out of our iron-clad isolation, which makes us think that nothing can change.  Longing for God shatters our dreary routines and impels us to make the changes we want and need.   Longing for God has its roots in the past yet does not remain there: it reaches out to the future.  Believers who feel this longing are led by faith to seek God, as the Magi did, in the most distant corners of history, for they know that there the Lord awaits them.  They go to the peripheries, to the frontiers, to places not yet evangelized, to encounter their Lord.  Nor do they do this out of a sense of superiority, but rather as beggars who cannot ignore the eyes of those who for whom the Good News is still uncharted territory.

An entirely different attitude reigned in the palace of Herod, a short distance from Bethlehem, where no one realized what was taking place.  As the Magi made their way, Jerusalem slept.  It slept in collusion with a Herod who, rather than seeking, also slept.  He slept, anesthetized by a cauterized conscience.  He was bewildered, afraid.  It is the bewilderment which, when faced with the newness that revolutionizes history, closes in on itself and its own achievements, its knowledge, its successes.  The bewilderment of one who sits atop his wealth yet cannot see beyond it.  The bewilderment lodged in the hearts of those who want to control everything and everyone.  The bewilderment of those immersed in the culture of winning at any cost, in that culture where there is only room for “winners”, whatever the price.  A bewilderment born of fear and foreboding before anything that challenges us, calls into question our certainties and our truths, our ways of clinging to the world and this life.  Herod was afraid, and that fear led him to seek security in crime: “You kill the little ones in their bodies, because fear is killing you in your heart” (SAINT QUODVULTDEUS, Sermon 2 on the Creed: PL 40, 655).

We want to worship.  Those men came from the East to worship, and they came to do so in the place befitting a king: a palace.  Their quest led them there, for it was fitting that a king should be born in a palace, amid a court and all his subjects.  For that is a sign of power, success, a life of achievement.  One might well expect a king to be venerated, feared and adulated.  True, but not necessarily loved.  For those are worldly categories, the paltry idols to which we pay homage: the cult of power, outward appearances and superiority.  Idols that promise only sorrow and enslavement.

It was there, in that place, that those men, come from afar, would embark upon their longest journey.  There they set out boldly on a more arduous and complicated journey.  They had to discover that what they sought was not in a palace, but elsewhere, both existentially and geographically.  There, in the palace, they did not see the star guiding them to discover a God who wants to be loved.  For only under the banner of freedom, not tyranny, is it possible to realize that the gaze of this unknown but desired king does not abase, enslave, or imprison us.  To realize that the gaze of God lifts up, forgives and heals.  To realize that God wanted to be born where we least expected, or perhaps desired, in a place where we so often refuse him.  To realize that in God’s eyes there is always room for those who are wounded, weary, mistreated and abandoned.  That his strength and his power are called mercy.  For some of us, how far Jerusalem is from Bethlehem!

Herod is unable to worship because he could not or would not change his own way of looking at things.  He did not want to stop worshiping himself, believing that everything revolved around him.  He was unable to worship, because his aim was to make others worship him.  Nor could the priests worship, because although they had great knowledge, and knew the prophecies, they were not ready to make the journey or to change their ways.

The Magi experienced longing; they were tired of the usual fare.  They were all too familiar with, and weary of, the Herods of their own day.  But there, in Bethlehem, was a promise of newness, of gratuitousness.  There something new was taking place.  The Magi were able to worship, because they had the courage to set out.  And as they fell to their knees before the small, poor and vulnerable Infant, the unexpected and unknown Child of Bethlehem, they discovered the glory of God.

Link:

http://www.news.va/en/news/the-popes-homily-on-the-feast-of-the-epiphany

Catholic Resources

A list containing some Catholic resources in various forms (e.g. music, books, video, apps or sites) 

Books

[1] Saints for Sinners by Alban Goodier, S.J. 

This book covers not only their past but the human element of the nine saints as well. Such mention of the human side of a saint, in a way- helps us to relate, be inspired and to hope that a dull pencil, when God holds it- can create masterpiece. The saints included in this book are St. Augustine, St. Margaret of Cortona, St. John of God, St. Francis Xavier, St. John of the Cross, St. Camillus, St. Cupertino, St. Colombiere and St. Benedict Joseph Labre. If my memory serves me right, this book allows me to connect to St. John of the Cross closer. A pdf copy of this book can be found in this link

Apps

[1] Verbum (iOS, Android, PC)

verbum

This app is like a book that houses several Catholic books- including the classic ones like Imitation of Christ, Introduction to Devout Life among others (some requires purchase). This also contains daily readings depicting several themes: Roman Martyrology, Catholic Daily Readings and Pictorial Lives of Saints. This app also features free book of the month which allows me to grow my Verbum library as seen in the image below.

file

Android Link

iOS Link

Web Link

Music

Before listening, it is my hope that these songs will touch you. 🙂

[1] These Alone are Enough for Me

 

[2] Shepherd Me, Oh God

 

[3] Lord, I Need You (Cover)

 

 

You were chosen to be a saint

by  Fr. Steve Grunow

Today the Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints. The Saints are the great heroes of our Faith. The Church describes a Saint as a person of “heroic virtue”.   This means that while many Christians might be willing to settle for lackluster accomplishments as disciples, the Saints engage their relationship with the Lord Jesus vigorous creativity and absolute dedication. Most often, the work of the Saints will go unnoticed and unseen. Saints are not celebrities, and those Saints who capture the attention of the world, view that renown as the imposition of a cross.

Most Saints will disappear into the mission of the Church.

In heaven, we will know the profound impact thousands of hidden Saints had on our lives, but here on earth, as I said, most of the Saints move about and work among us, and do so for the most part unnoticed and unseen.

The work of the Saints is not completed with their deaths. The Saints know better than most Christians that life here in this world is not merely an end in itself, but a means by which God prepares us for a greater and more important mission in heaven. No one who is in Heaven is indolent. Heaven is not a place of indifference to this world but one of interaction and intercession. This means that the Saints continue their mission as disciples of the Lord Jesus, supporting and sustaining the Church, acting to help and support all the baptized.

The first scripture for today’s Mass of All Saints is an excerpt from the New Testament Book of Revelation. The Book of Revelation is one of the most mysterious, complex, and misunderstood books of the Bible. It is a theological commentary on events from the past, present and future and it communicates important spiritual insights through fantastic images and symbols. The common impression is that the Book of Revelation is about the end of the world, and as such people are often terrified by its content.

But, properly understood, the Book of Revelation is not simply frightening, but reassuring, as it foresees the victory of God in Christ over all the dark powers, worldly and otherworldly that oppose him.

The Book of Revelation is not simply about the end of the world, but the beginning of a new world in which the great enemies of God, and therefore the enemies of humanity are defeated by the power of God in Christ. These enemies are sin, death and the devil.

The conflict between the dark powers of sin, death and the devil has consequences for the Church as it engages her mission in the world. The Church is opposed as Christ was opposed. The Church suffers as Christ suffered. And in all this, the Saints are on the front lines of the battle.

The Book of Revelation displays all that I just described in symbolic or metaphorical terms. What you heard about was a vast assembly of people from all over the world, clothed in white, who proclaim the coming victory of God in Christ. Who are these people? The text tells us- they are Christians whose heroism was revealed in their willingness to be killed rather than renounce their Christian Faith or cooperate with the dark powers.

Thus, our first scripture for today is about a particular kind of Saint- the martyr. We live even right now in an age of martyrs as multitudes of Christians in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East are persecuted and killed because they are disciples of the Lord Jesus. We might think that the greatest challenge to the Church today is whether or not we should conform to secular values, but far more important than this is the brutal fact that for millions of Christians, professing and practicing the Christian Faith can cost you not just your livelihood, but also your very life.

On this day when the Church celebrates the Saints, it would be good for us to remember, that what is demanded of us as followers of the Lord Jesus is often times far less than what it demanded of others.

We are not compelled by circumstances to die for our Faith in Christ, but are we willing to live for it? If our sacrifice is not to be that of a martyr, what is the sacrifice we will offer?

Our second scripture is a brief passage from the First Letter of John, in which the evangelist articulates an important insight about our identity as Christians. We are not as Christians merely members of a faith-based social club, an ethnic or cultural association, political action committee, or supporters of a 501C3 non-for-profit initiative. In the words of Pope Francis, the Church is not an “NGO”- a non-governmental social service organization.

What are we then? The evangelist John tells us- we are the children of God.

This means that God has made us in Christ his beloved children, and just as children are an expression of their parents love, so too Christians are meant to be for the world an expression of God in Christ’s love.

Being a child of God, means aspiring to be like the One who is revealed to be God’s only beloved Son- Jesus Christ. Being a child of God is not just some privileged title, but a responsibility, an identity, a mission that a Christian accepts. The Christian, as a child of God, is meant to be an expression to others of Christ himself. Thus, when a Christian is baptized, he or she is proclaimed to be what is termed an “alter Christus”, that literally means “another Christ”.

The Saints are expressions of Christ-likeness par excellence. The Saints “re-present” Christ to us and through the Saints Christ acts and introduces himself to us. Saints are not just nice, friendly people who do good things for society, but they are Christians who aspiring to serve Christ as disciples, are given the gift of becoming ever more and more like him.

And that observation brings me to an important clarification: when a Christian is baptized, what is happening to that person is not just inclusion into a community. No!

What happens when a Christian is baptized is that person is chosen as Christ to be like him- a person is chosen by Christ to be a Saint. The realization of your life as a Christian is not simply that you become a member of a faith based club or matriculate through faith-based institutions, but that you become a Saint. That’s what Baptism is all about, indeed, that’s what the Sacraments are about, indeed what the whole life of the Church is about. Being a Christian is about being chosen by Christ to be a Saint. “You have not chosen Christ, he has chosen you!” You will never begin to understand what the Christian life is all about until you understand this universal summons to holiness, this summons to be a Christian, which is God in Christ choosing you to be a Saint!

Finally, in his Gospel, the Lord Jesus presents what are known as “The Beatitudes”- a proclamation of those who are truly blessed by God and who enjoy God’s favor.

In worldly terms the blessing of God, the favor of God is many times construed in categories of worldly success or exemption from the harder facts of human existence. Some consider God’s blessing to being the recipient of prosperity and wealth, talent and good looks, power and prestige. God’s favor happens, according to some, when they are exempt from having to suffer or to struggle. Christ the Lord upends these kinds of expectations, and declares that the blessing of God and the favor of God is given, not to those who have the most, but those who have the least; not to those whom the world esteems as successful, but to those who seem to the world to have failed; not to those who have power, but to those who seem to have no power at all; not to those whom the world considers to be significant or influential, but to those who go mostly unnoticed and unappreciated.

In other words, in his Beatitudes, God in Christ announces a revolution!

Blessing is not getting what we want, but having the opportunity to give to others what they truly need. God’s favor is not an exemption from the hard facts of life, but God’s favor is found within the hard facts of life.

The Saints will exemplify in their lives the Beatitudes of the Lord Jesus, their blessing and favor will look like the strange blessing and favor that the Lord Jesus describes. The Saints will not only exemplify the Beatitudes in the decisions they make about the way they live, but also in whom they will seek to serve and choose to associate with. The Saints will seek the company of the kinds of people that Christ describes in his Beatitudes.

Consider the decisions you have made about your life. Have these decisions made you a person whose life looks like the life described in the Beatitudes? Consider the people with whom you associate and whom you esteem. Are these people like the people described in the Beatitudes?

And in our answers to these questions is the challenge for all of us would be saints, saints in the making- do our decisions make of us men and women of the Beatitudes? How many of the people that we seek the company of and consider to be our friends look and live like the kinds of people Christ describes as being truly deserving of his blessing and favor?


Link:

http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/you-were-chosen-to-be-a-saint/5301/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_term=fb-wof&utm_content=you-were-chosen-to-be-a-saint&utm_campaign=blog-post

Benedict XVI says he felt he had a ‘duty’ to resign because of his health

Retired Pope Benedict XVI has said in an interview that he felt a “duty” to resign from the papacy because of his declining health and the rigorous demands of papal travel.

While his heart was set on completing the Year of Faith, the retired pope told Italian journalist Elio Guerriero that after his visit to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012, he felt he was “incapable of fulfilling” the demands of another international trip, especially with World Youth Day 2013 scheduled for Brazil.

“With the program set out by John Paul II for these (World Youth) days, the physical presence of the pope was indispensable,” he told Guerriero in an interview, which is included in the journalist’s upcoming biography of Pope Benedict. “This, too, was a circumstance which made my resignation a duty,” the pope said.

An excerpt of Guerriero’s book, “Servant of God and Humanity: The Biography of Benedict XVI,” was published Aug. 24 in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica.

Pope Benedict said that although he was moved by the “profound faith” of the people of Mexico and Cuba, it was during his visit to the two countries in 2012 that he “experienced very strongly the limits of my physical endurance.”

Among the problems with committing to the gruelling schedule of an international trip was the change in time zones. Upon consulting with his doctor, he said, it became clear “that I would never be able to take part in the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro.”

“From that day, I had to decide in a relatively short time the date of my retirement,” he said.

Guerriero noted that while many believed the pope’s retirement was a defeat for the church, Pope Benedict continues to seem “calm and confident.” The retired pope said he “completely agreed” with the journalist’s observation.

“I would have been truly worried if I was not convinced — as I had said in the beginning of my pontificate — of being a simple and humble worker in the Lord’s vineyard,” he said.

The retired pope added that while he was aware of his limitations, he accepted his election in 2005 “in a spirit of obedience” and that despite the difficult moments, there were also “many graces.”

“I realized that everything I had to do I could not do on my own and so I was almost obliged to put myself in God’s hands, to trust in Jesus who — while I wrote my book on him — I felt bound to by an old and more profound friendship,” he said.

The retired pontiff spends his days in prayer and contemplation while residing at the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in Vatican City. For 19 years, different contemplative orders took turns living in the monastery with a mission focused on praying for the pope and the church.

Benedict said that upon learning that the Visitandine nuns would be leaving the residence, he realized “almost naturally that this would be the place where I could retire in order to continue in my own way the service of prayer of which John Paul II had intended for this house.”

Among the visitors Pope Benedict receives is Pope Francis, who “never fails to visit me before embarking on a long trip,” he said.

Asked about his personal relationship with his successor, Pope Benedict said they shared a “wonderfully paternal-fraternal relationship” and he has been profoundly touched by his “extraordinarily human availability.”

“I often receive small gifts, personally written letters” from Pope Francis, he said. “The human kindness with which he treats me is a particular grace of this last phase of my life for which I can only be grateful. What he says about being open toward other men and women is not just words. He puts it into practice with me.”

Pope Francis, who wrote the book’s preface, expressed his admiration for the retired pope and said his spiritual bond with his predecessor “remains particularly profound.”

“In all my meetings with him, I have been able to experience not only reverence and obedience, but also friendly spiritual closeness, the joy of praying together, sincere brotherhood, understanding and friendship, and also his availability for advice,” Pope Francis wrote.

The church’s mission of proclaiming the merciful love of God for the world, he added, has and continues to be exemplified in the life of Pope Benedict.

“The whole life of thought and the works of Joseph Ratzinger have focused on this purpose and — in the same direction, with the help of God — I strive to continue,” Pope Francis wrote.

 

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/08/25/benedict-xvi-says-he-felt-he-had-a-duty-to-resign-because-of-his-health/

THE MOST UNPOPULAR COMMANDMENT

It is the commandment not to judge others. 

Of all Jesus commandments, there is one that is more unpopular than any other. It’s the one commandment where I’ve heard people say that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said. I’ve even heard more excuses for this sin than for sins of the flesh.

What is this commandment? It is the commandment not to judge others. 

Yes, rash judgement of others is a sin. The saints frequently speak of its sinfulness, as does scripture. (If you don’t believe me, I have compiled a small library of verses and quotes at the end of this post to prove it.)

We often forget about it or ignore it in favor of other more “scandalous” sins, but it is a sin nonetheless.

BUT WHAT ABOUT ACTIONS?

The most common defense I hear in favor of judging others is, “We can’t judge hearts, but we can judge actions.” That is true. But the problem is, fallen human nature is such that it is almost impossible to separate the two. No sooner have we said, “Joe is living with his girlfriend,” than we begin to think explicitly or implicitly, “Joe is a sinner, and a worse one than I am!” The moment we begin judging the actions of others, we fall into the trap of saying like the Pharisee, “I thank you God that I am not as other men are.”

Is this possible to avoid? Perhaps. But why would you try? Judging the hearts and motives of others is the sin of pride, and it wounds our own souls grievously.

The truth is, the human heart is a complicated thing. There are many people who do the right thing for the wrong reasons, and many who do the wrong things for the right reasons. The fact is, God alone knows what is in our hearts and why we do what we do. He alone can truly judge righteously. That’s why Jesus warned against judging according to appearances (John 7:24)—because appearances can often deceive.

Additionally, no one sins in a vacuum. There are many circumstances and wounds of the heart that often cause us to make sinful choices. Think of the young boy who joins a gang. It is easy to judge him an evil-hearted criminal. But think for a moment about the circumstances that lead him to that point. Perhaps he was raised in a family with no father, to a mother who was a drug addicted prostitute. Maybe he never experienced love from anyone, even once. Perhaps he was beaten and abused. Yet he still longs for family. He gets to know a man who is strong and tough, but who cares about him and is interested in him. Yes, this man is part of a gang, but this young boy sees this gang as more of a family that looks out for each other than as a criminal organization. He wants to belong, he wants to be initiated into a family. And so he starts down a path that leads him to a life of crime.

Is he responsible? In some way, yes, he is. But who’s to say you would have done any different in his circumstances? We see only an evil criminal, taking no account of the brokenness that lead him to that path. We have so little mercy.

The truth is, we deep down believe that we are better than other people, and we are constantly on the lookout for proof of this fact. When we see others sin, we gloat or shake our heads in disappointment. “What a sad sinner they are, I’m so glad I’m not a sinner like that.” It is pharisaic pride, plain and simple.

There is a spiritual law that says that we will receive in exactly the measure we give (Matthew 7:2-3). So if we judge harshly, we can expect the same harsh judgment from God, but if we judge mercifully, we can expect the same mercy from God.

SO WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?

The alternative is to be hard on yourself, while giving others the benefit of the doubt. It is to believe the best about others, despite appearances, while acknowledging like St. Paul that we ourselves are the chief of sinners. Many saints counsel us to do this, and they tell us the more we learn about our own hearts, the less we will desire to pass judgement on others. “Whatever we see our neighbor do,” says St. Francis de Sales, “we must strive to interpret it in the best manner possible.” That’s what we desire for ourselves, isn’t it? For people to give us the benefit of the doubt.

If you must judge someone, judge yourself, for yours is the only heart you can really know. The only reason we judge others so harshly is that we know ourselves so little. I assure you, the more you learn about the layers of sin in your own life, the more you will recoil in horror from ever judging your brother.

AN IMPORTANT CLARIFICATION

Now, some of you may be reading this and thinking that I am saying we should never speak out against sin, or that I am advocating some relativistic, amoral worldview. That is not what I am saying. Sin is sin. When there are corporate sins plaguing the Church or society, sins that endanger other’s souls, we should speak out about them. When heresy was running rampant in the Church, the saints didn’t sit back quietly in the name of withholding judgment, but rather fought the heresy with charity and zeal. There are times when righteous judgement is needed. But judging a sin corporately speaking is different than judging the heart of your brother and condemning him.

It is also important to note that we can encourage those who are living in objectively sinful states to repentance. To do so is a spiritual work of mercy. Even then, we must speak as a sinner to a sinner, not judging motives, but only sinful actions, approaching the other as would a doctor and not a judge. We should be careful not to turn this admonishment into an opportunity for thinking better of ourselves, but rather acknowledging our need for God’s mercy as well.

Scripture and the voice of the saints are clear: Judging the hearts of others is indeed a sin. It is a sin of pride that does grievous damage to our own souls. We must look to the sin in our own hearts first and foremost, rooting out patiently the beam in our eye. And once we begin to do so, we will find that we quickly forget about the speck in our brother’s.

VERSES AND QUOTES

Verses
Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:4

“He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.” James 4:11

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

“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.” Matthew 7:2-3

“Do not grumble, brethren, against one another, that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the doors.” James 5:9

Quotes

Notes: This is just a sampling. There are many other similar quotes from other great saints.

“A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.” – Abba Xanthias, Desert Father

“Fire and water do not mix, neither can you mix judgment of others with the desire to repent. If a man commits a sin before you at the very moment of his death, pass no judgment, because the judgment of God is hidden from men. It has happened that men have sinned greatly in the open but have done greater deeds in secret, so that those who would disparage them have been fooled, with smoke instead of sunlight in their eyes.” – St. John Climacus

“Believe that others are better than you in the depths of their soul, although outwardly you may appear better than they.” – St. Augustine

“If you see your neighbor in sin, don’t look only at this, but also think about what he has done or does that is good, and infrequently trying this in general, while not partially judging, you will find that he is better than you.” – St. Basil the Great

“Those who look well after their own consciences rarely fall into the sin of judging others.” – St. Francis de Sales

“Support and excuse your neighbor with great generosity of heart.” – St. Francs de Sales

“Do not criticize! To speak only of the faults of others does not represent total reality, for every man, in addition to his faults, also has virtues, a good side.” – St. Maximilian Kolbe

“Be gentle to all, and stern with yourself.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Let us be slow to judge. — Each one sees things from his own point of view, as his mind, with all its limitations, tells him, and through eyes that are often dimmed and clouded by passion. Of what little worth are the judgments of men! Don’t judge without sifting your judgment in prayer.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

“Let us especially resolve not to judge others, not to doubt their good will, to drown evil in an abundance of good, sowing loyal friendship, justice and peace all around us.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

The Most Unpopular Commandment