How Can We ‘Judge Ourselves’?
In his column headed “Who am I to judge?”, Fr Ron Rolheiser wrote that God and Jesus judge no one, we judge ourselves. In the Apostles’ Creed it says that Jesus sits at the Father’s right hand and he will come to judge the living and the dead. How, then, can this be? Yvonne Savy
Certainly, Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead. St Paul writes that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:10).
Matthew 25 provides us with a vivid picture of what will happen on the last day. The Son of Man will separate the sheep from the goats and reward or punish each one, using a simple yet sobering evaluation of their track record of love and compassion for their fellow human beings.
Those who showed real care and concern for others will be invited to inherit the kingdom prepared for them. Those who refused or neglected the needs of their fellow human beings will be commanded to depart for ever.
Christ identifies himself in an extraordinary way with all who need our help, such as the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the naked, the stranger and the prisoner.
With this in mind, you can get some idea of what Fr Rolheiser was emphasising. I understand him to mean that we all know exactly what we can expect when we stand before Christ the judge. Our conscience will cast the bright glare of awareness of our transgressions against our neighbour’s needs. We shall have already judged ourselves, reproached by our conscience.
Writing to the Romans, St Paul explained that what is required by the law is written on their hearts, “while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (Romans 2:15-16).
In his discourse on the Apostles’ Creed, St Thomas Aquinas wrote that, if our conscience finds us blameworthy due to our lack of Christian compassion, we must repent and confess our sin, do good works, give alms to the poor and go out of our way to show love and concern for all we come in contact with.
Quoting St Peter, he reminds us to love one another, since love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet 4:8). He urges us to appreciate that God’s mercy is available now, but at the judgment it will yield to God’s justice.