From Fr George W. Rutler’s ‘Weekly Column’
During the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia, a relatively unknown figure, the Archbishop of Krakow and future Pope John Paul II, said: “We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society, or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the Gospel and the anti-gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church . . . must take up, and face courageously.”
Those words in Philadelphia certainly were as prophetic as the voices in Judea thousands of years ago. In the subsequent generation, crammed with breathtaking events of universal and historic significance, heroic and tragic, we can count the manifold ways in which that future pope seemed to see the judgment of God at work.
The Second Sunday of Advent points attention to two kinds of judgment. First, and most immediate for the human condition, is the particular judgment each of us will experience at the moment of death, when our life passes before us. Christ as Judge makes no arbitrary decisions, but instead avails himself as the measure of our compatibility with his love. The other judgment is the social judgment of the whole world. This will happen at the end of time when all created things and time and space themselves will end. There was an intimation of this in the earthquake when Christ died on the cross, as prelude to his resurrection when he could “die no more” (Romans 6:9).
Confronting the Judge, we have the option of two kinds of fear. The first is the perplexity of the person who knows only self-love and has lived life as though the self were God. The second is the joyful awe sensed by the person who has loved God and neighbor as much as the self.
In the moral order, people have to make judgments for the sake of sanity, but those judgments must be based on standards outside one’s sentiments, similar to the way we measure objects according to the standards set by the Bureau of Weights and Measures. Jesus submitted to the judgment of Pontius Pilate, and by so doing, he took on the suffering of those who are wrongly judged.
Jesus did not deny Pilate’s right to pass judgment; rather, he reminded Pilate that he was answerable to a higher authority: “You would have no power over me were it not given to you from above” (John 19:11). The command not to judge others is about defining justice without accountability to God. “He who rejects me and does not receive my words, has one who judges him; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day” (John 12:48).