My friend Fr. Zack has a foundational rule for homilies: if you homily has three points, save two for another time. It’s good advice, but today, I will take an exception to the otherwise excellent rule. I want to talk about three things: judgment, character, and blindness.
Judgment: We know that we certainly don’t like to be judged. And when we are, or at least think that we are being judged, often we grouse, “who are they to judge me?” We know that even though we are cautioned about judging others, we often take the bench as judge, jury, and maybe sometimes even as executioner. But we are subtle about it. Growing up in the South it was common to hear: “My Aunt May is so controlling and demanding. She treats her husband like a hired hand…bless her heart.” All you had to do was add that last part and you got a free pass. That didn’t count as judging. ….ahhh…. pretty sure it did.
Think about this: what sort of person would we be if we made no moral judgments? I don’t know about your life, but I find life constantly brings you face-to-face with the need to make discriminating moral choices. It is a life of learning to discern right and wrong, develop a sense of justice while being able to spot hypocrisy and moral compromise. Like or not we have to judge. Call it discernment if you like; same thing.
Character: “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45). What is in your storehouse ready to pull out when needed? Lots of things. Moral discernment begins with family of origin experience, what we take in with our eyes, our ears and a whole lot more. They form memories, which become our thoughts, which are played out in word and action, forming habits, developing character, all leading to the person we are becoming.
If we want to see what’s in the storehouse, we need only consider our words, actions, and habits. They reveal what’s in the storehouse or at least what you are using from the storehouse. Is it good or not-so-good tending towards evil? Our first judgment should be to have a sense and on-going consideration of the fruit of our lives. We need to be discriminating about our own assessment of choices and decisions, but we also can’t wait for perfection. That is a long wait for a train don’t come. We have to continue to make moral choices and to help those around us make moral choices.
Blindness. It is a process of learning to judge between right and wrong, developing an acute sense of justice, all the while being able to spot hypocrisy and moral compromises in ourselves and others. It is a life-long process to develop heightened spiritual awareness – which slowly brings things into focus, removing the blindness. We aren’t perfect, but at least we are avoiding the big pits.
King Solomon found himself in the same position. He prayed for Wisdom, right? Actually he was more specific. He prayed for Wisdom so as to discern and judge rightly. He wanted Wisdom to tap into the memory of his father, King David. Wisdom to see the good and bad in his father, a flawed human being to be sure. He wanted Wisdom to tap into the storehouse of good as a first response to his moral decisions.
Pray. Lent is upon us. Why not dedicate the season to pray to the Holy Spirit for the gift of Wisdom and insight. Be willing to take the time – and not just one time – time after time to discover and add to the storehouse of goodness within you as you remove logs and splinters, see more clearly, and witness to fullness of the heart play out in your words and action, habits, and character – slowly becoming ever so closer to being Christ-like.
During the recent “Friar Preview” session, one of the participants observed that all the above had similarities to becoming a mother. There is a good deal of blindness in play just because the future is so unknown: “I’m not ready. What was I thinking?” The whole time raising the child you will be making one moral choice after another – and wondering if you made the right choice – and forming the child in that same moral framework. The sights, sounds, memories become thoughts, words, action – you develop habits of providing love and care for your children and slowly you become “mom.” Perhaps flawed in your own eyes, so loved in the eyes of the child. Forming new memories, sights and sounds.
The whole while it was love that flowed from the storehouse of goodness. Flowed through all the uncertainty. The flow of love from God through you to the child, helping to fill the storehouse for the next generation. An infinite, unending resource: love/the gift of the Spirit/the fruit of Wisdom. The result, a good person living out of the store of goodness in their heart producing good fruit.
All made possible by judging well
Pray, Discern, Love: fill and tap into the store of goodness – world without end.