I’ve spent the last couple of days proof-reading and editing some texts in preparation for publication. It must have left me in a “myopic” attitude, by which I mean, I can’t see the story for the words; which left me challenged by today’s first reading.
St. Paul speaks of his indifference to “judgment”, whether by individuals or by institutions. He uses the word “judgment” in a judicial sense, with penal overtones. The alternative to this judgment is to be “acquitted.” The Greek word which runs through this text for “judgment” is “krino” in different forms. We are familiar with this meaning of “judge” because we have lots of afternoon television programing based around the exaggerated characters and cases of “Judge Xxxx” and “Judge Yyyy.” However, the judicial sense is an evolved meaning for the word “krino.” It’s origins are elsewhere.
In a classical, literary sense, it means “to separate”, “to choose” or “to select.” This enriches the context that Paul sets at the beginning of the passage. He writes: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In order to carry out our role as “servants” and “stewards,” we need to exercise discerning judgment. We need to be able to propagate the “mysteries of God” by bringing discerning judgment into our daily witness to the Gospel. In this Year of Mercy, that means that we witness to the Absolute Mercy of God in the unmerciful and often rancorous political debate of this election year.
The ultimate act of judgment, in Paul’s text, is that which will be given by the Lord at His coming. It is the judgment of the praise that will come to every person from the Lord Himself.
In this case, the liturgical text doesn’t have the adequate precision. When the text states and then everyone will receive praise from God, it sounds like a celestial pep rally will be held at the last judgment. A more faithful translation would be: “our due praise will be from God.” The measure of that praise will be whether or not we, individually, were trustworthy stewards of God’s mysteriously unconditional mercy.
Fr. Arthur Carrillo, C.P. is the director of the Missions for Holy Cross Province. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.