There are American Idol judges, Miss America pageant judges, Olympic judges, science fair judges and judges at the state fair determining the best jams, jellies, pies and salsas. I myself like the State Fair winning Merlinda’s Blue Ribbon Salsa made by my cousin Merlinda Sedillo, found in your local grocery store’s salsa section.
Of course there are the legal judges, probate, municipal court, district court, state court, and all the way to the United States Supreme Court, all of them interpreting the law of the land and passing judgment on the guilty and it is not by any means a perfect system.
But then there are the harshest judges of all, each of us judging ourselves. We are sure that we can’t be forgiven by others and many times just can’t forgive others…or ourselves.
Let’s be real about today’s readings, they are tough to hear. We are not just reminded gently, but told boldly that we are sinners.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy we hear, “But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you that you shall perish.”
Also from Sirach, “for great is the wisdom of the Lord; He is mighty in power and sees everything. His eyes are on those who fear Him and He knows every human action. He has not commanded anyone to be wicked and he has not given anyone permission to sin.”
Yes, sin is a choice and not sinning is a choice.
Then there’s the gospel from Matthew. If all Christians lived today’s gospel, could we ever finish a church service? Many would be leaving their gifts at the altar to reconcile with their brothers and sisters and we would wait until everyone came back. Gift, gifts everywhere.
Any given day almost all of us need to ask forgiveness of someone in our lives who we have hurt or who have hurt us. We can’t come to the altar without a clear heart. Of course sometimes going to that person to confess our sin to them could be worse than the original sin.
In the early church that is just what happened. People tried to tell someone, “I took one of your chickens, I cheated you in a financial deal, I coveted your wife…and the ensuing confrontation was anything but Christ-like. This is where the original concept of confession started, the priest would sit in as a representative of the community and you could tell him the sin and he would give you forgiveness as a representative of the whole community.
Back to the judges. Some of the harshest, cruelest and most unforgiving judges in the world are our own Christian brothers and sisters. The words “holier than thou” come to mind. I admit I had a bit of a struggle and was a bit judgmental of Christians I knew who got divorced, couldn’t they have tried harder, gone to counseling? Now that I am one of those divorced people, I see things differently. And I’ve said this before, the people here at Live at Five helped me through that terrible time in my life when my other Christian friends kind of turned their backs on me.
Now I see now how many people, Christians included, judge harshly on topics like divorce, adultery, abortion and gay marriage, but they see no sin in not taking care of babies after they’re born, taking care of children, the elderly, the homeless, the prisoners and the sick.
In the gospel, Jesus speaks about how what we think of as the lesser sin, being angry with your sister or brother, is just as bad in the eyes of God to murdering that person. I think that is very important; all sin is sin in the eyes of God. Every sin hurts God and our relationship with God, but sin can be forgiven. Forgiveness can be given and received. But we do have to ask for it.
A very important thing to remember is that all governments and churches are flawed, because they are run by humans and all humans are flawed. God only has one perfect child and that is Jesus. The rest of us cannot reach that perfection and judging each other won’t help us get any closer to reaching that goal .
I get a cold chill running down my spine as I think what would happen if a panel of human judges were to pass judgment on me at the end of my life…I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t like the outcome, probably none of us would. But fortunately for me…and you, we have a loving, compassionate and forgiving God, sitting at the only real judgment seat in heaven…and I feel way more comfortable with our Lord passing judgment on me. Although I hope it’s not anytime soon so I can take care of a few things I need to fix first.
But when the Lord does take me and I do stand at that judgment seat, I don’t want God to say “case dismissed” like Judge Judy, but instead, “You are loved and forgiven. Well done good and faithful servant.”