MERCY AND JUSTICE: The perils of judging others.

The news about the new nominee for Supreme Court Justice is percolating just beneath the surface of nightly news. You know it is there. You know that Democrats will be against Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination on principle. Likewise, Republicans will be for it.

Never mind that he might be the most qualified nominee ever. Never mind that activists disrespect the Courts, the Congress and the Presidency in their mindless hysteria to keep him out of the position. He is to be vilified, calumniated,  and detracted against because that is the only objection they can have against him. What happens is a lessening of our respect for the Congress, the Courts and the Presidency. It is a perilous position to take but one of desperation because they know the Supreme Court will likely be beyond their influence, if he should be nominated.

THE MODERN TOWER OF BABEL

This blog is about my Lectio Divina (Phil 2:5) and the way that we are warned against the foolishness of judging others. Supreme Court Justices notwithstanding, each of us actually do make judgements every moment we live. These are called choices. Our species evolved from the intelligence common all animals have to reason, peculiar to only humans, Sentient reasoning then evolved to the point of making choices. ones based on certain criteria. These criteria were formulated by clans, tribes or groups holding a viewpoint. History is a record of these struggles to hold principles which are authentic and those which lead to the destruction of society or individuals. It also chronicles the power struggles of some political or religious groups to inflict their world view or moral compass on others. All the religions of the world have ways to look at reality. They can’t all be correct because they conflict with each other, yet groups of these sentient thinkers, such as scientists, philosophers, political adherents, religionists, economics, and so on, all have languages peculiar view of reality. It is like the storied Tower of Babel in Genesis 11. the indication that people once had just one language and accomplished an impossible feat, to build a tower together. This story is an archetypal representation that humans find it very difficult to come together to agree on anything due to the various languages they speak. Scientists have a different set of assumptions about reality than do spiritual thinkers. Spiritual thinkers do not agree among themselves as to what their principles are (Muslims, Jews,, Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindi, to name just a few). Drilling down even further, not all Muslims agree, nor do Christians (Orthodox, Catholic Universalists, Protestants, Mormons). The proliferation of beliefs (assent of the mind to a set of principles) is a choice, one that is not always respected by groups who hold that they alone hold the truth and everyone else should conform to their view as the correct one. It is the classic struggle of humans to allow choice.

JUDGEMENT AND MERCY

The problem for me comes when I must choose a way of thinking that precludes other choices, ones that are not compatible with what others believe, yet allow them to hold their own set of values peculiar to their assumptions.  I may not agree with any of their beliefs, or we my hold just one or two principles in common. Judgement of the worth of what  I hold to be true must be tempered by justice and mercy. Justice means I must be true to my belief system and mercy is how I allow others to be free to hold what they want, without losing the core of my belief and heritage. I hold that I have the truth from Christ, who is the way, and also the life, if I am faithful to the command: love others as I have loved you., says Christ.

John 13:34-35[Full Chapter]

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Here are some examples of how I deal with different languages and viewpoints of reality while keeping my own integrity. My assumptions are uniquely mine as are yours.
SCIENCE AND CATHOLIC UNIVERSALIST

As a Lay  Cistercian, I try to be committed to having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2::5) every day. Prayer helps me to focus on this by placing my heart in silence and solitude next to the heart of Christ and waiting for whatever comes. This practice would not make sense to someone who holds that what is real is only what you can see, measure with scientific languages and assumptions. This is the one place the late Stephen Hawking could not look. He may have looked there but did not find anything consistent with his assumptions. I live in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) while others may live in only two universes (physical and mental). I do not deny science nor other ways of thinking, but I keep measuring them against my principles. I hold that science and religion is compatible but not identical. The measures each universes uses is different. They may overlap but also may not. My view of reality contains both visible and invisible reality, My view of spirituality contains the ability to approach the Mystery of Faith, the compendium of all that is, accessible only through Jesus Christ in union with the Holy Spirit. My views are probably not compatible with many scientists nor even some religionists, but they are consistent with my spiritual heritage.

CATHOLIC UNIVERSALIST AND THE CHOICE OF FREEDOM
Did you notice that I am using the words “Catholic Universalist”? I like to answer people when they ask, what is your religion?  For me, this term means I am a member of the living Body of Christ on earth, the living Body of Christ in Heaven, and the living Body of Christ awaiting purification. I don’t belong to a church. I belong to the living Body of Christ and my destiny is to be with God in Heaven.
Freedom is important for choice because God’s nature is love and humans were created to live with Him forever. The spiritual universe is the only universe where you must choose to enter it. Some enter it through Baptism, some through Baptism of desire, and some are judged by God as being worthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (See Luke 23:39-43). It is God’s playground we want to enter and He can let in whomever he wants.
There is no more appropriate example of the choice of freedom God extends and humans accept that Mary, Mother of God.

Luke 1:26-38 New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

The Birth of Jesus Foretold

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”[b] 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[c] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Apostles and allowed them to approach the Father through Christ. In the Annunciation, the same Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and allowed the birth of Christ, the Son of the Father, as a human. When anyone looks at this event, they make choices about what it is and what it means to them. They are free to choose what they want, but there is but one choice to be free from what is true,

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT IS TRUE FROM WHAT IS NOT?

There are several questions that are troublesome to me and make me uncomfortable. One of them is the question of certitude. This has to do with what is true one the one hand and your freedom to make that choice of what is true, even if what you choose is wrong. Who is to say? Here are some thoughts that have me scratching my head.

I know that every human being has the freedom to believe what they want about anything. As Pope Francis famously said, Who am I to judge?

I also know that there is truth that comes down from Christ, passed down through the ages, prescriptions to live life a certain way with certain values that have been enshrined in the Scriptures.

The purpose of Scriptures, according to St. John 20:31 is “…these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life in his name.”  If someone is not Christian, or even a Christian that holds truths that are inconsistent with what Christ passed on to us, how do I, a Lay Cistercian trying to expand the capacity of God in me, treat others who believe something different than I do? The answer has to do with holding fast to those instructions passed on from the Apostles (Apostolic), being one with those who believe that Jesus is Lord (One) in this life, those who have died in Christ, and those awaiting purification. It is also being in union with the Church Universal as living Body of Christ (Universal) plus always trying to have in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Phil 2:5) (Holy).

I try not to judge the motivations of others about belief. God is the ultimate judge of all of us. We will be judged on how we love one another as Christ loved us.

The Judgment of the Nations

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,[a] you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

THE CHARACTERISTICS OF JUDGEMENT

  1. If you are a judge, you must make decisions, sometime between this or that, sometimes choosing what is good or not.
  2. All judges and judgments happen against someone outside of the judge. In the case of society, it is called the Constitution or Statutes and Laws created by lawmakers. The judge just gives an opinion of what is correct.
  3. In the case of spirituality, God is both the Judge and the Lawgiver. The sin of Adam and Eve is a classic story of breaking the rule, in this case eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because they wanted to be God. Classic!  Being human, we messed up knowing what is from God and what is not, hence the story of the Tower of Babel that still permeates our thinking today. Our choice is clear: choose God or choose your own self as God. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments (plus other prescriptions) to help the Israelites to keep from being God. They, like we, messed it up. Christ came to tell us in person what it means to love God and how much God loves us. He taught us how to get to Heaven with just one rule: love one another as I have loved you.  We could not agree on what that meant and the ages from Apostles to now is fraught with heresies and false teachers. Today, the prevalent religion is relativism (everyone is their own church, everyone is their own god), so the main principle is that people are free to believe not believe something from our heritage that makes us free if we do it.
  4. Each person must choose their own center and must be free to do so.
  5. Each person must answer for their actions. Let God judge those outside of the Church, and you do not judge anyone inside the Church.
  6. You have reason for a reason. You have the ability to choose what you makes sense to you in life. You will be judged according to how close you are to the way, the truth, and the life. This is called a particular judgement, when you die. The final judgement is at the end of time in the physical and mental universes.
  7. I don’t worry if someone does not believe what I believe or hold to the Lay Cistercian approach to spirituality that I do. I try to focus on loving Christ using the helps and instructions he gave me.
  8. I ask God to be merciful to those who have fallen away from the Faith, those who have abandoned the teachings of Christ, those who have no clue that loving Christ means, those who have no concept of a God who loves with a fierce love and invites them to be with Him forever. Most of all I ask God to be merciful to me, trying to muddle through the ups and downs that life throws in my path as I seek God.
  9. In the end, there is Hope. The Hope that all humans will end up in Heaven, their destiny. The Hope that God’s words to us, through Christ, are true. The Hope that I can rid myself of being God by trying to judge others and hold them to a standard I cannot meet for myself.

Praise be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever. The God who is, who was, and who is to come at the end of the ages. Amen and Amen. –Cistercian doxology.

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