On this last Sunday of Advent, as the nova nativitas of Our Blessed Lord looms mighty before us, Holy Mother Church invites us to prepare for judgment. Indeed, in the mind of the Church, preparation for Christmas is preparation for the Second Coming of the Lord, it is preparation for death. If we are ready to die, we will be ready for the graces God wants to give us this Christmas.
And how do we prepare for death? St John the Baptist has been telling us for weeks now to repent, to perform works worthy of penance, to mortify our passions, to practice charity. Today, we are also given to listen to the apostle St Paul who tells the Corinthians that, as minister of Christ he cares little for the judgment men might pronounce upon him. He was sent by Christ and he answers to Christ, not to men.
But the apostle goes further and tells us that he cannot judge himself either. What does that signify? St Paul is here trying to get across the amazing capacity the human conscience has of hiding things from itself. The path to hell is paved with good intentions. The Holy Father reminded us of that just a couple days ago. St Paul is clear that it is not because we might consider ourselves just that we are. It is so easy to blind ourselves to reality, to adapt reality to our way of seeing things.
It is perhaps for this very reason that God gave His Church a visible structure. It is easy to point the finger at others, especially when they in visible positions of authority. And God knows superiors can fail in their duties. St Paul reminds us that a minister of Christ must be found faithful, the understanding being that this is not automatic.
But his severe injunction to refrain from judging places us before an avoidable reality: we do not know what goes on in the hearts of others. We do not even know what goes on in our own heart! How could we be judge of others?
For sure, objective actions and words demand to be assessed. If something is wrong, it is wrong; if something is evil, it is evil. Period. But when it comes to the internal dispositions of souls, that is a domain where we have no entrance. God alone judges consciences and souls.
In the sermon on the mount, the Lord was clear: “Judge not and you will not be judged”. If we want to have a lenient and merciful judgment, we have at our fingertips a sure way of success: refrain from judging others in this life.
True, it is sometimes very hard not to judge someone’s intentions when there are repeated actions or words that seem to confirm our intuition. And that is where we need to be very attentive: the most gifted and insightful of persons can only go by what he sees and hears: he does not know what goes on in the heart, and therefore cannot pass judgment.
As we prepare now to go to Bethlehem once again to adore the Infant King, let us divest ourselves of all rash judgment on others, whoever they might be and whatever suffering or scandal they might cause. We do not know what they are dealing with, we cannot read their intentions. The Infant God is their judge as He is our judge. May He find us humble, poor and meek. If He does, then we might be among those privileged souls who, like the shepherds, are unexpectedly given to see and hear what so many prophets and kings desired to see and hear, but did not.
God reveals Himself to the humble. Only to the humble.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like unto Thine.