Posted by: frroberts | November 17, 2017

God’s Judgment

Some of you will recall that one of the great positive influences in my priesthood was Fr. Sid Sidor, who fell asleep in Lord now a bit more than a year ago, dying of cancer.  Fr. Sid, like most holy people, was a little crazy.  There was, I think, a method to his madness.  At least I hope there was.  Here is a case in point:

One day I brought in to Fr. Sid a young man struggling with a drinking problem.  Now Fr. Sid was an alcoholic in his sixth decade of sobriety, meaning that he had not picked up a drink in more than fifty years.  He always had time for alcoholics.  After taking the lay of the land and realizing that the situation was serious, Fr. Sid said something that almost made me fall out of my chair.

“Young man,” he said “you have three options.  You can stop drinking, develop a relationship with God, work a spiritual program of recovery and you will have a blessed life.  Or you can keep on drinking and it will kill you.  Or, if you want to keep drinking, I can go upstairs, get my gun and let you go out back and take care of things so that you stop putting your family through the agony of dealing with an active alcoholic for decades.

I knew Fr. Sid well enough to realize that he was not serious about the last option.  But his candor about the gravity of the  situation had its desired effect.  I hear today that the individual in question has gotten his live together.

One of the things that Fr. Sid said frequently that sticks with me is that “no one goes to Hell for his sins. People go to Hell for their lack of repentance.”  I find that to be a comforting thought.  We sin, most of us, daily.  We do bad things more often than we are inclined to admit.  God does not ask for perfection, but for rigorous honesty about our errors and the humility to come to Him for forgiveness with desire to change.

What is the judgment of God like?  It is tempting to think that God judges us much like a teacher grading a multiple choice test.  We ask ourselves, will we get enough right answers to get into Heaven at the moment of our death?

The Gospel gives us a different vision of what God’s judgment looks like.  Jesus invites Himself into the house of the tax collector Zacchaeus.  We need to be honest here and say that tax collectors were almost always not nice people.  Their professions generally involved extorting money from the weak and the poor into order to support the Roman Empire’s military.  They often became rich by using their power to collect more than Rome demanded and take the overage for themselves.  We find it hard to imagine that Zacchaeus did not know that he was behaving very badly in the still hours of the night when he could not fall asleep.

When Jesus comes to Zacchaeus’ house He comes in judgment, inviting a sinner to repentance.  And how does Zacchaeus react?  He confesses his sins and promises to make amends for the evil that he has done.  What a relief it must have been for Zacchaeus to realize that Jesus believed that he could change.

Divine judgment is meant to set us free from the chains of our sins.  If we honestly believe that  we are without sin or just want to continue sinning, we have something to fear from Divine judgment.  But most of us, who deep down inside know we do wrong and want to do better, have nothing to lose and everything to gain from it.  We can stop spending so much time and energy trying to keep up the façade of our false self and start living out of who we really are, which, being real, is the only version of us that God actually loves.

At times, God’s judgment will show us unpleasant realities about our lives.  Fr. Sid’s words that I shared at the beginning of the homily are a good example.  But when God convicts of sin, He does so in order to set us free.  He forgives and, in a real sense, forgets.  But God does respect our freedom, even our freedom to say no to His desire to save us.  He will not force His mercy on us.  Saint Augustine put it well, “God who made us without us will not save us without us.”

The choice is ours.  Will we repent or will we not?  Will we go to confession and lay bare all of our sins or continue deceiving ourselves about our spiritual condition?


Responses

  1. Father this is so good. Thank you. Perfect timing!

    Like

  2. Father Christopher, you were so blessed to have been befriended by such a God like person, Father Sid. How wonderfully you write about this amazing Priest. I have enjoyed reading about some of the times you shared with Father Sid. Oh the joys and sadness we go through and put others through in our time on earth. I also appreciated reading your sermon for this weekends mass. I hope I can find a good confessor where I am at. Bless you Father and your gift to write.
    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph I love you very much, save souls, save my soul.

    Like


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