Summary: The call of Christ not to judge, not to condemn, is directed at our relationships with other humans, not evil actions themselves.

Monday of 2nd Week in Lent 2013

Gaudium et Spes

Today’s Scriptures are most appropriate as follow-ups to the Gospel of Transfiguration we heard on Sunday. Jesus is seen on Mount Tabor conversing with Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the greatest prophet. Jesus has always been seen by the Church as the greatest of lawgivers, a new Moses, and the greatest of prophets–and more than a prophet. So today we hear him expounding on the second of the great commandments, love your neighbor as yourself.

God is infinitely just, but also infinitely merciful. That is why we sinners can have hope. In the heart of God, mercy trumps justice. The sinner who turns to God and repents will always find mercy. The only unforgivable sin is refusal in life and in death to accept God’s love, forgiveness and mercy. God will not drag us kicking and screaming into heaven. But Jesus turns this reality around and points it to us, like a mirror. We must be merciful to the extent that the Father is merciful. That means that we, too, must let mercy trump justice. If someone offends us, we must forgive, not condemn.

Now the world has corrupted this passage of St. Luke, just as it corrupts everything it touches with its materialistic, hedonistic, consumerist fingers. That’s the reason, for instance, that the homosexual activists are running roughshod over our institutions and even the sacrament of marriage these days. Jesus holds no love for evil actions, for injustice, for fornication and perverse, self-destructive conduct. When he tells us to refrain from condemnation, he means that we must condemn the sin, but love the sinner. It is not loving for us to tell people who are hurting themselves and others that their actions are good. It is not compassionate for us to let evildoers force us to accept their actions as wholesome. The compassionate path is to structure our civil institutions so that they promote the good and proscribe the evil.

The Council Fathers recognized the great divide in the human heart and will: “Only in freedom can man direct himself toward goodness. Our contemporaries make much of this freedom and pursue it eagerly; and rightly to be sure. Often however they foster it perversely as a license for doing whatever pleases them, even if it is evil. For its part, authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man. For God has willed that man remain "under the control of his own decisions,"(12) so that he can seek his Creator spontaneously, and come freely to utter and blissful perfection through loyalty to Him. Hence man's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice that is personally motivated and prompted from within, not under blind internal impulse nor by mere external pressure. Man achieves such dignity when, emancipating himself from all captivity to passion, he pursues his goal in a spontaneous choice of what is good, and procures for himself through effective and skilful action, apt helps to that end. Since man's freedom has been damaged by sin, only by the aid of God's grace can he bring such a relationship with God into full flower. Before the judgement seat of God each man must render an account of his own life, whether he has done good or evil.”

And later (28) they conclude: “Respect and love ought to be extended also to those who think or act differently than we do in social, political and even religious matters. In fact, the more deeply we come to understand their ways of thinking through such courtesy and love, the more easily will we be able to enter into dialogue with them.

“This love and good will, to be sure, must in no way render us indifferent to truth and goodness. Indeed love itself impels the disciples of Christ to speak the saving truth to all men. But it is necessary to distinguish between error, which always merits repudiation, and the person in error, who never loses the dignity of being a person even when he is flawed by false or inadequate religious notions.(10) God alone is the judge and searcher of hearts, for that reason He forbids us to make judgments about the internal guilt of anyone.(11)

“The teaching of Christ even requires that we forgive injuries,(12) and extends the law of love to include every enemy, according to the command of the New Law: "You have heard that it was said: Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thy enemy. But I say to you: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you."”

Christians must be active in society, then, so that our legislators craft laws that promote good and inhibit evil. We must be for liberty–freedom to do the good–not libertinism–removal of all restrictions. Because when evil is not restrained, it comes back and burns down the house.

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