The Judgment of Our God is True and Upright!
Readings: (1st: Sir 35:12. 16-19; Ps: 322-3. 17-19; 2nd: 2Tim 4, 6-8.16-19; Gos: Lk 18, 9-14)
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans), Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Theodicy is the vindication of God’s Goodness and Justice in the face of the existent evil. It is from two Greek words; “theo”, god and “dike”, justice. Our God does not show favoritism, he is firm in his judgments and decisions; and he cannot be biased or bribed. Yet he is a compassionate and loving Judge who does not treat the offender with impunity or harshness of sentence. His judgment is true and right! On this 30th Sunday of Ordinary time, the Church draws our attention to the fact that the Lord is our Just Judge whose judgment we know for sure favours the humble.
One little novel that left a very positive impression on me during my early college days like George Orwell’s Animal Farm is that titled: The Incorruptible Judge by Olu D. Olagoke published by Evans brothers in 1972. It focused on the real-life value of a judge who portrayed exceptional type of honesty, fair play patriotism, bravery, truthfulness, purity of purpose and an excellent strength of character. It exposes the ills of a society where the script and the spirit of the law are no longer respected. In this novel, Ajala was considered a suitable candidate for a government advertised job. However, the recruiter insisted on being offered some “Kola” (bribe) before he would offer him the job. Aware of the lawlessness of such a demand, Ajala reported the issue to the police. On taking the case to the court, the accused having weight around, contacted the wife of the trial judge, his father in-law, the customary chief of the community and the judge himself with the aim and means of getting judgment perverted. But unfortunately for him, the judge would not oblige. Without fear, favour, ill-will or impoliteness, the judge warded off the ill-tenders. In the court room the judge and the jury would not be swayed or confused into condoning or venializing crime by the rigmarole of the defense. Finally, the accused is sentenced as due. This is the way God operates and sees to the vindication of the upright and the correction of the sinner. But as a Father he does not apply capital punishment; rather, he gently corrects and wins us back. Such is our God and His justice. He knows full well as the Psalmist says: “If you O Lord mark our iniquities O Lord who will survive, but with you there is forgiveness…?” (Ps.130, 3-4).
In the first reading, Sirac exalts us on the justice of God towards the poor, injured, orphans, widows, and in fact the weak of our society. This is coming at the heels of a time when just judgment has become a thing of the past and the highest bidder wins the case, and when cases are decided over a bottle of cold bear in a joint with a briefcase of cash to smile home with. In the “Heavenly Court”, God the Just Judge remains resolute to ensure that justices is upheld, just as the incorruptible judge. When we are faced with such situations, what do we do? God expects us to borrow a leaf from him by being firm. We are called to be like God the Just Judge who acquits the virtuous by delivering just judgment. Also, Sirac assures us that in as much as we are humble, prayerful and persevere in doing good, God will surely be there to vindicate us because, as the psalmist says: “This poor man called and the Lord heard him” (Ps. 34, 6). Certainly, because he does not go to sleep, he will hear us.
In the second reading, Paul, having played his part perfectly well on the earthly stage, now confidently awaits good judgment from the hands of the Just Judge. He boldly asserts himself: “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to finish, I have kept the faith; all there is to come now is the crown of righteousness reserved for me, … on that Day.” Mark the confidence of Paul here! There is only one thing can give one such confidence – a life well-lived in humility, fear of God, and according to the holy will of God. This is the reason John tells us that: “Perfect love drives away all fears” (1Jn 3, 10). If we live a righteous life, a life that leaves no skeleton in our cupboards, towards the end of our life time we shall not be afraid of death, “hell fire”, or even consider a stopover at purgatory because, there will be no need for all these. Most importantly, we shall not be afraid of what the Just Judge will decide about us. We shall approach his throne of judgment with confidence as Paul did. We must mark the phrases with which Paul punctuated his confidence: “to the end!” and “to the finish!” My dear, it is not over until it is over! If we are already living good and humble lives, we must not diminish in it. Rather, we must struggle to the end and to the finish. When Paul was yet to accomplish the race, he wrote: “I do not claim that I have already arrived…I press on toward the goal to win the prize” (Phil 3, 12-14).
In the gospel, Jesus further buttressed the fact that, judgment belongs to “God who searches what searches the mind.” He is the one who knows all our intentions and actions. It is not for us to judge others because the judgment of mortals is biased, selfish, egocentric and easily confused. What transpired between the publican and the tax collector is typical of the type of scenario we find in our religious gatherings or organizations, where some brethren with their holier than thou attitude like the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat (Mtt 23, 2), to judge others. Another facet of the problem is manifested here: religionizing of everything; invocation and the use of the name of God, and holy words in the doing or defense of unholy works and actions. The word “ God” or “Yahweh”, a title of the holiest, most upright, most just being in existence, supposed to elicit reverence from human mortals, is now the most used word by unrepentant thieves, hypocrites, sycophants and hypocrites. Self righteous people often judge people wrongly because of their own weakness of mind and ignorance of how God operates. Such people look at themselves as the role models others must imitate or as if they are the real, pious and holy ones. They are quick to condemn the dressing, make up, sitting position, hair style, and shape of hair tie of others. These are not the ways of God, the Just Judge.
Finally, we must not place ourselves where we do not belong and place others where we feel they should be like a certain proud and arrogant professor; who on encountering one for the first time addresses him/her thus: “I am Professor, Professor… and you are Mr.…? Fool, he has passed judgment by placing himself so high (Dual Professor) while assuming that the other must be a “Mere Mr.…” Rather, we must humbly acknowledge our nothingness, vulnerability and weakness like all mortals before the Just Judge. This is why Jesus the Just Judge who acquitted the humble tax collector says to us today: …“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”
Peace be with you all!!