Thursday November 3, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Thirty-first Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Romans 14:7-12) Gospel (St. Luke 15:1-10)
Saint Paul, in the first reading today, tells us that each one of us is going to have to stand before the judgment seat of God, and each one of us is going to have to give to God an account of our lives. So he asks, Why then do you judge your brother, because we have a judge, and the judge is the Lord. “Why do we stand in judgment with regard to other people?” is Saint Paul’s question. Who are we to judge others? We can judge actions, but we are not to be judging the people.
The Lord makes clear to us in the Gospel reading what it is that we have to be doing. We need to be praying for the people. If there is somebody whom you find yourself judging, if there is somebody whom you do not like, if there is someone who just kind of gets under your skin, pray for that person. What we tend to do instead is stand in judgment of them. We tend to harbor anger against them, or bad thoughts against them, or sometimes we just plain and simply try to ignore them. But if there is going to be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine righteous people, if there is someone who is giving into some sort of sinfulness then we need to pray for them so that they would repent. What we would want is for them to go to heaven.
Now we also need to look at it and say, “If I am the one standing in judgment of others, maybe I’m the one who needs to repent. Maybe that is going to give far more glory to God and more joy to the angels than anything else that I could think of,” because if we are standing in judgment of others, we are the ones who are sinning. The interesting thing is (probably like that lost sheep wandering around in the hills) we think we are doing just fine. We do not even realize we are lost because we are so caught up in self-righteousness that we think we are doing just fine and we are on the right path. It is the other ninety-nine sheep that are wandering aimlessly–we are the ones that are right, after all. It does not work that way. We have to look at our own selves in light of Christ and we need to realize that we are the ones who need to repent, that we are the ones who are the sinners who need to change our lives. That is a humbling thing to be able to recognize.
So whether it is that we see somebody doing something that needs our prayers, or whether we look at ourselves and find ourselves judging others and therefore we recognize our own need to repent, it does not matter; either way the cure is the same: We need to pray. We need to keep our hearts and our minds focused on Christ. That is the only thing that is important. All we need to do is stop and think about what Saint Paul is telling us, that each of us is going to have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Do we really want to try to explain to Jesus why we thought it was okay for us to be a judge? why we thought it was okay to condemn somebody else? We have no business doing that. And if He is the judge, how do we think we are going to explain our own actions? It is not going to work very well because He knows what we did and He knows why we did it. We are not going to be able to weasel around it and we are not going to be able to lie, so if we really look honestly at ourselves then we are going to have to ask, “Why did I do what I just did?” There ultimately is only one reason: “Because I myself am the sinner in this case.” That is the one who then needs to repent.
So when we look at our own actions and we look at our own selves in the light of judgment and ask ourselves, “Now how am I going to explain to the Lord why I just did what I did,” again, remember that there is not going to be any cutting corners, no neat little stories that we can lie our way through. He is the Just Judge who knows perfectly well what we have done. How are we going to explain ourselves? Since there is not any good explanation for why we do some of the things we do, there is only one option, and that is to repent. When we repent, not only do we save our own souls, but we will find ourselves being much more merciful to others, we will give God glory, and we will provide great rejoicing for the angels in heaven.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.