I think one of my favorite expressions is, "there, but for the graces of God, go I." It keeps me humble and it helps me realize how many times in my past I could have gone down the wrong path. Anyone who knows anything about me knows that I haven't always been a church going type of guy. In fact, it's wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I had a "reversion" and started going back to mass regularly for the first time in a decade. How many times did I have the opportunity to go down the wrong path. How many times did I start to go down the wrong path and somehow find my way. How thankful am I that God is merciful and forgive me for my sins for when I did start to go down that wrong path?
In this weekend's reading, Jesus speaks about others who have died and says, "do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did." I would have to say that I am guilty of this. I see someone who's is leading a life that is obviously sinful. I happen to run into a lot of these people in police work. The suspects, the bad guys and often the victims themselves are involved in a sinful life. On Friday and Saturday nights, I work the entertainment district in the city and see people doing things with a "what happens in Westport stays in Westport" mentality.
How often to I begin to judge these people before realizing that that "there, but for the grace of God go I?" I need to realize that they aren't any more guilty of sinning any more than I am. Maybe I am on the right path now but maybe they will be. Like the parable that Jesus tells about the fig tree. The land owner was going to go cut it down because it had never bared fruit. The gardener said to him to let him tend to it. Maybe with cultivation and fertilization it may bear fruit in the future.
We all needs God's grace. It is only through God's grace and our cooperation with that grace will be get--and stay--on that right path. That is why we shouldn't judge people. We are just as guilty as everyone else is. We can be honest with that person. We can pray for that person. Must of all we should maintain hope because with God's grace that person may still bare fruit. But we should never judge because, "there, but for the grace of God go I."