7th Sun [C] 2004

Fr. Charles Irvin

1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49; Luke 6:27-38


If you were to ask anyone, Christian or non-Christian, what Jesus Christ was all about you would likely hear the ideas contained in today’s gospel account given as answers to your question. “Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves…” “Love your enemies…” “turn the other cheek,” “…pardon and you will be pardoned…” – all of these would likely be cited.


These words from Jesus are a part of the discourse He had with His disciples immediately following His famous Sermon on the Mount, about which we heard in last Sunday’s gospel account. Given their placement immediately following His Sermon on the Mount, the words of Jesus you just heard today were obviously at the very core of His teachings,.


It’s when we begin to analyze them and really think about them that we encounter some troublesome questions and our thinking gets confused.


Take, for instance, Jesus’ admonishing us not to judge others. How are we to understand that when later we hear Him calling the Pharisees a “brood of snakes,” “whited sepulchers,” “hypocrites,” and so forth? What does “loving our enemies” mean for us when see Jesus making some whips and then in blazing anger driving the moneychangers out of the Temple in Jerusalem?


Take another example. I think traditional marriage should be favored in our society. For that I’ve been called a hate-filled, homophobic, gay-basher. If it’s your well-reasoned and thoughtful position that a baby in its mother’s womb is a real person and should be regarded so by in nation’s laws then you will be judged a religious fanatic attempting to impose your values on others.


On other issues, it seems that if you are in favor of “A” then you are against (and even hate!) “B”, “C”, and “D”. Evidently today you cannot be in favor one thing without being accused of being a nasty person with respect to other things. One might, with equal illogic, claim that because a man loves his wife and is totally devoted to her he thereby hates all other women.


Do not judge, we’re told. Christians cannot judge others, we’re told. But if we dare to judge certain human activities to be wrong then we will be subjected to the harshest of judgments by those to tell us not to judge! When a Christian is criticizing a particular human behavior and is attacked for doing so, we must ask: “Is it the Christian who is being criticized or is Christianity?”


To begin to make sense out of all of this we need to look at something within the human heart that is as old as human nature itself, and it’s this: People who love their sinful ways hate to be told they’re living in sin.


Christians who react to ways in which humans are sinful will find their Christianity turned against them. The only problem is that the sort of Christianity used against them is a bogus one, a so-called Christianity that was not a part of Christ’s ways, truth, and life.


As Christians, we know that Jesus, while hating the sin, loved the sinner. Cannot we, the followers of Christ, have permission from those around us to do the same?  Let’s be clear-headed about all of this. Being against sinful behavior does not entitle others to call us phobic, hate-mongering, fanatics who go around bashing others. When we’re told that we are such nasty persons, we should not respond by simply retreating, shutting-up, and keeping silent in the face of those false accusations.


Is Jesus presenting to us a God who has no standards, no values except those of tolerating anything and forgiving everything? Are we as Christian supposed to be so open-minded that we’re empty headed?


As a follower of Christ, I believe I should love people enough to expect the best from them, not the basest, and the worst. Nor should I tolerate injustice, abuse of others, or the oppression of tyrants. I do not believe we can change the hearts of tyrants simply by friendly persuasion. Non-violent confrontation of tyranny is not the same as supine tolerance of human evil. Love does not mean acceptance of anything and everything.


Jesus is calling us to love others as His Father in heaven loves, loving all of His children, be they Romans, Samaritans, homosexuals, Jews, Arabs, or people of differing ethnic and racial origins, or our next door neighbors. He loves them for who they are… and we should love others for who they are. It’s how they act that’s the question. Because God loves everyone does not mean He accepts racism, abuse, oppression, injustice, and all others things that demean, degrade, and hurt others.


Human choices and human acts can provoke God’s anger. But anger is not the same as hatred. Anger is a passion that wells up within us when we find those whom we love and care for doing things that are evil, wrong, hurtful, and unjust. Anger is love’s first cousin, not love’s enemy. Indifference and not caring are the opposites of love… not anger.


And while anger is not the rejection of love, love does not mean complete acceptance of what others think, say, and do. Love cares enough to give the very best, and to expect the very best. Love seeks the best in us, it doesn’t tolerate and accept the basest within us.


All of us all of the time should first pay attention to our own need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. All of us need to judge our own actions and our own selves first before we judge those of others. All of us need to let God be God and let Him decide who is saved and who is damned, who is loved by Him and who is not. Ultimate judgments about others belong to God, not to us.


The only thing we know with certainty, the only certain judgment that we can make, is that we, along with the worst of sinners, stand in need of God’s love, God’s mercy, and God’s Christ, the One He sent into our world not to condemn it, but to save it. It is in saving it that God our Father has given us, as Christians, the enormous privilege of loving others as Jesus Christ loves them. We should measure our selves and measure others with the same measure we are measured by Christ, the one who died for us because he loved us so much.

About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”