Letter to Fr L – Mercy above all leads us to our own salvation

O Clarim News Desk (English)

Dear Father L.

At one of the Sunday Masses during the Advent season, I heard the priest say: “If a person corrected one bad habit a year, that person would soon be perfect.” Notice the modesty of this claim: only one bad habit a year. I was really touched by the priest’s homily. I have to lower my head to admit that I have one bad habit: I am a judgmental person. I am fond of speaking in a harsh and critical way of others. What really saddens me is the fact that I am judgmental even towards our priests. I have been in constant struggle to overcome this shortcoming, or even sin, of mine. I pray that you can spare some words to console me in my struggle, which I think has also been a constant struggle for others. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

Sad Lady

Dear Sad Lady,

Merry Christmas!

I am afraid, I will be offering you challenges rather than words of consolation in this letter. In the Gospel of Matthew 7:1-2, we read: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.”

Being judgmental can be a difficult thing to shake off. Once someone falls into the habit of regularly thinking and speaking in a harsh and critical way, it is very difficult for them to change. In fact, once someone starts down the road of being critical and judgmental, chances are that they will continue down that road, becoming more critical and more judgmental.

This is one of the reasons Jesus addresses this tendency in such a strong way. After the passage above, Jesus states, “You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first…” These words and Jesus’ strong condemnation of being judgmental is not so much because Jesus is angry or harsh toward the judgmental person. Rather, He wants to redirect them from the road they are heading down and help to free them of this heavy burden. So, an important question to ponder is this: is Jesus talking to me? Do I struggle with being judgmental?

If the answer is “Yes”, fear not and do not get discouraged. Seeing this tendency, and admitting it is very important and is the first step toward the virtue which is opposite of being judgmental. The virtue is mercy. And mercy is one of the most important virtues we can have today.

It seems that the times we live in demand mercy more than ever. Perhaps one of the reasons for that is the extreme tendency, as a world culture, to be harsh and critical of others. All you need to do is read a newspaper, browse social media, or watch the nightly news programs to see that our world culture is one that is continually growing in the tendency to analyze and criticize. This is a real problem.

The good thing about mercy is that God uses either our being judgmental or our mercy (depending upon which is more manifest) as the measuring rod of how He treats us. He will act with great mercy and forgiveness toward us when we show that virtue. But He will also show His justice and judgment when this is the path we take with others. It is up to us! Take time to examine yourself more for your other shortcomings and make a good Confession. Remind yourself that mercy is always far more rewarding and satisfying than being judgmental. It produces joy, peace and freedom. Put mercy in your mind and commit yourself to seeing the blessed rewards of this precious gift.

May I share William Barclay’s prayer? “O Father, give us the humility which realizes its ignorance, admits its mistakes, recognizes its need, welcomes advice, accepts rebuke. Help us always to praise rather than to criticize, to sympathize rather than to discourage, to build rather than to destroy, and to think of people at their best rather than at their worst.” May the Word of God which judges all secret emotions and thoughts be active and alive in us (Heb 4: 12).


Father L

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