The second reading at Mass on Sunday came from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
My brothers, be united in following my rule of life. Take as your models everybody who is already doing this and study them as you used to study us.
I have told you often, and I repeat it today with tears, there are many who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ. They are destined to be lost. They make foods into their god and they are proudest of something they ought to think shameful; the things they think important are earthly things. For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe.
So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord. I miss you very much, dear friends; you are my joy and my crown.
Jesus tells us not to judge others, lest we be judged and found wanting.
Paul tells us to judge: to study the field and pick those who are winners and model ourselves on them, and avoid imitating those destined to be lost.
A couple of points.
First: Jesus was surely warning against a spiritual arrogance that leads us to condemn others, careless of our own faults and failings. Paul has found another way to encourage us to seek improvement in ourselves – and not giving the top priority to crticisng others seems a pretty good place to start!
Second: though Paul was not slow in offering his critique of those who failed to see how israel’s faith found its fulfilment in Christ, how in the Paschal Mytery we had the ultimate demonstration of God’s faithfulness to us – he also, again and again, put himself on the line in service of his own people, Israel, and of the Gentiles.
The test of faithful living is service, love of God in love of neighbour, our ‘vertical’ and our ‘horizontal’ relationship offering in their intersection the perfect place for our own growth and nurturing in love.
- What helps you judge right?
- What blurs or distorts your vision?
Prison in which St Paul was held prior to his execution at Tre Fontane, Rome. (c) 2014, Allen Morris.