September 1, 2014

Tuesday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s Readings: September 2, 2014
1 Corinthians 2:10b-16
Psalm 145:8-14
Luke 4:31-37
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090214.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/14_09_02.mp3

The difference between judging and judgmentalism

What's the difference between scrutinizing everything (as in today’s first reading) and being judgmental, which, as we know, Jesus firmly described as a sin? St. Paul says here that "the one who is spiritual can judge everything."

The difference is between a what and a who. In observing a what – a situation, an idea, a behavior – the Holy Spirit scrutinizes it, and if we're listening to God, we hear his opinion about it. But how do we know we're not listening to our own opinions, which can be biased because of our limited perceptions and which have been trained by the limited perspectives of others and the foolishness of the world?

A good relationship with the Holy Spirit is essential for good listening. The more we rely on Jesus, trusting him more than we trust ourselves, the more open our spirits are to the promptings of his Spirit.

In observing a who, we err whenever we make conclusions, because we do not fully know the other’s heart and motive and level of accountability – only God does; only God can be Judge. We can correctly identify when people are sinning, but we can only make assumptions about why, how much they understand, and how much they can be held accountable. Assumptions can never be trusted.

Even when our assumptions are correct, we're not free to judge the sinner, because a judge is one who has the authority to impose sentence. Only God has that authority, for only God is free of sin. Remember what Jesus told the guys who wanted to stone the adulterous woman: Who can cast the first stone?

Today’s responsorial Psalm tells us how God serves as Judge (are we like this?): gracious and merciful, slow to anger, great in kindness, good to the sinner, etc. We're quick to condemn. We get frustrated when people don't get the punishment they deserve. And yet, how grateful we are that God does not condemn us so quickly! Ahhh, the sin of hypocrisy rears its ugly face. Judgmentalism leads to one sin after another.

As Christians who are devoted to uniting ourselves to Christ, we have the mind of Christ, but let's remember what is uppermost in Christ's mind: "I did not come to the world to condemn it, but to save it." We become obstacles in his way when we judge people. Redemption and justice only occur when we let Jesus decide how to make good come from every evil.

And by the way, you are a "who" too, so quit condemning yourself! Turn instead to God's mercy and let Jesus redeem you from whatever you've done wrong.

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica of Good News Ministries (gnm.org)
For PERMISSION to copy this reflection, go to gnm.org/copyrights.htm
For professionally published reflections and other Good News materials for RCIA, church bulletins, etc., please visit Catholic Digital Resources at catholicdr.com

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Monday of the 22nd Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s Readings: September 1, 2014
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Psalm 119:97-102
Luke 4:16-30
www.usccb.org/bible/readings/090114.cfm
USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
ccc.usccb.org/cccradio/NABPodcasts/14_09_01.mp3

How to bring others to conversion

All of us are called to be evangelizers. You are a missionary right now, where God has already placed you, touching the lives of everyone who encounters you. You are called to be the presence of Christ wherever you are and in everything you do.

Don't be discouraged when you fail at convincing someone to go to church or to trust in Jesus. The question is: Have you allowed yourself to get caught up in an argument? St. Paul tells us, in today’s first reading, to rely instead on "the convincing power of the Spirit". No one is inspired into conversion when debates feel more like arguments than friendly explorations of the truth. People get defensive, because they feel pressured into changing their point of view. Defensiveness closes the ears of their hearts, and then they cannot listen with understanding.

Only the Holy Spirit grants understanding – it's a gift – and the Spirit works not in arguments and pushy persuasions, but in love and compassion.

Paul preached nothing but Jesus Christ crucified: with his words and in how he served. However, the crucifixion is not a pleasant topic. And yet, Christ's sacrifice is a far more persuasive reason to believe in God's love than anything we could ever say in a debate.

When unbelievers are ready to see what Jesus did for them on Good Friday, their resistance melts. When they understand why he did it, they experience conversion. But how can we help them see and understand without getting into arguments?

We preach Jesus most effectively by the sacrifices that we make in his name. By serving the needs of others (especially when they've not been kind to us) and imitating Jesus who went to the cross for those who sinned against him, we give a powerful testimony of God's love.

Since there are no quick journeys to faithfulness, we'll probably have lots of time and plenty of opportunities to show that we really care – repeatedly – before they are ready to understand the connection between our sacrificial love and Christ's. Then we must be ready to use words to explain God's love. This is much more effective than making them feel guilty about not going to church.

In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus begins the synagogue lesson – and his public ministry – with: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me." It was the Holy Spirit who anointed Jesus and sent him into the world to preach. Likewise, it's the Holy Spirit who anoints you and me and sends us out from Mass to take Christ into the world. And it's the Holy Spirit (not us) who changes the hearts of those we evangelize.

Not everyone will pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is doing and saying through us. Some will reject the truth no matter how greatly we love them. But when people do experience conversion and spiritual growth, their new faith will be founded not on our wisdom, but on the power of God.

© 2014 by Terry A. Modica of Good News Ministries (gnm.org)
For PERMISSION to copy this reflection, go to gnm.org/copyrights.htm
For professionally published reflections and other Good News materials for RCIA, church bulletins, etc., please visit Catholic Digital Resources at catholicdr.com

To sign up to receive the Good News Reflections by email, go to gogoodnews.net/DailyReflections