DESPITE THE OBVIOUS fact that we cannot help but fall into sin, there is also in us that strong tendency to think that we are right and that the others are wrong. We are quick to judge others even without enough basis, or based only on how things appear to us.

This is the irony in our life which was highlighted in that gospel episode where Christ called Matthew to be one of his apostles and went with him to his house together with other tax-collectors who were regarded sinners by some leading Jews of the time. (cfr. Mt 9,9-13)

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” they asked. And so, Christ had to clarify to them that “those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

We have to be most wary of this spiritual anomaly of self-righteousness and rash judgments that can afflict us easily. It usually takes advantage of our natural inclination to seek the truth, the good and the beautiful in life—in short, what is right—and corrupts that inclination because it is not properly rooted on the ultimate source of righteousness who is God himself. It’s so blinding that it can even assume the appearance of holiness.

Christ told us very clearly that we should refrain from judging others. “Do not judge, or you will be judged,” he said. “For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you…” (Mt 7,1-2)

We need to understand these words well. It’s not that we should not judge at all, since with our spiritual nature that endows us with intelligence and will, part of our way of knowing is precisely to judge. It’s when we make judgments that we start to know things. Our process of knowing covers the stages of simple apprehension, then judgment, then reasoning.

The words of Christ are meant to restrain us from making rash judgments, especially on other people whose status in any given moment we can hardly know completely. They are meant for us to judge well so that we too can be judged fairly, that is, with compassion and mercy, by others and ultimately by God.

With others, we have to practice a lot of restraint and moderation because the condition of any man will always involve certain mysteries that we can hardly fathom. St. Augustine has this to say about us: “Don’t you believe that there is in man a deep so profound as to be hidden even to him in whom it is?”

In fact, more than practicing restraint and moderation, given how man is, or how we are, we should judge with charity, with compassion and understanding, ever willing to give others the benefit of the doubt in their goodness and innocence, and even trying to find excuses for them. That’s because in the end, in spite of our differences and mistakes, we are all brothers and sisters, all children of God, bound to love one another.

Even in those instances where one is already known to have committed a big crime, and worse, is not sorry for it, we still cannot make a final judgment on him. That final judgment belongs to God alone who knows everything. By Fr. Roy Cimagala (EV Mail July 3-9, 2023 issue)