Look inward

Judging others does nothing for your own salvation

I’ve been to Mass at dozens of different churches in the past year. Early morning Masses, mid-day Masses, evening Masses, Masses in Spanish, Korean, and Indian dialects. They were all slightly different (okay, some more than slightly), but they were all the universal Mass that we as Catholics celebrate.

Due to a fluke in the Masstimes.org app, I inadvertently found myself at a Spanish-language Mass on a recent Sunday. I was perplexed, wanting to experience the Mass in my native language, but the greeter exuded hospitality and said to me, “Mass is Mass.” Amen, brother.

This liturgical diversity stands in contrast to a campaign by a Church leader a few years back to root out “liturgical abuses.” He wrote a series of columns in the diocesan newspaper on the “correct” way to celebrate Mass and declared that he was setting up a diocesan office where people could report these liturgical abuses.

His motivation was laudable: reverence for the presence of God during our sacred worship. His execution, however, left something to be desired. The concept of a diocesan office where you could squeal on your parish priest was a terrible idea. (Here’s a thought: talk to your pastor directly!) It would have the result of distracting people who were watching for abuses from fully participating in the very sacred mysteries they were monitoring.001-Pharisees

I’m not sure what ever became of that initiative (I hope it died a quiet death), but it points up the danger of judgementalism, which is as present today as it was in the time of Jesus. Essentially, it’s the sin of the Pharisees: focusing on the letter of spiritual law and ignoring the incredible presence of God in our midst.

How does this manifest itself? You name it:

  • Writing to the diocesan newspaper to question why some Catholic politician is still allowed to receive communion (think about your own sins and consider whether you’d want a person who doesn’t know you deciding whether you receive communion)
  • Calling a Catholic radio show to question some practice within your parish (again, have a conversation with your pastor; don’t validate your opinion with a third party and use it to assault your priest)
  • Posting on social media the “correct” way to hold your hands during the Our Father.

To be clear, I’m no liturgical anarchist. I’m not advocating an “anything goes” approach to the Mass. I realize that deviating too far from the Roman Missal can be a distraction, but so can watching for those deviations. Plus, an overly rigid approach to liturgical rubrics can alienate those who aren’t liturgical experts and demonstrate a lack of charity.

I’m convinced we’d be a stronger, more vibrant Church if we focused less on what others were doing and put more energy into our own spiritual lives.

The key is to start with ourselves, to look within.

The outward stuff is a distraction. The path to holiness involves focusing on our own spiritual life, our own relationship with Jesus, our own service to others. What are the areas of my life where I need God’s grace? Where does God need to work in my life to root out sin? How can I partner with God to build a stronger spiritual life, a better parish, a more just society?

What others are doing is, often, none of my business, and even if it is, it’s secondary to the work that I need to do on myself, with God’s grace.

If I’m not dealing with the beam in my own eye, I have no right to grouse about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye.