Thursday, 7 August 2014
ST. NICHOLAS AND THE THREE GIRLS - From A Sermon By St John Vianney
Tell me, now, my brethren, on what foundation are rash judgments and sentences based? Alas! They are based upon very slight evidence only, and most often upon what "someone said." But perhaps you are going to tell me that you have seen and heard this and that. Unfortunately, you could be mistaken in the testimony of both your sight and hearing, as you are going to see.... Here is an example which will show you, better than anything else can, how easily we can be mistaken and how we are nearly always wrong.
What would you have said, my dear brethren, if you had been living during the time of St. Nicholas and you had seen him coming in the middle of the night, walking around the house of three young girls, watching carefully and taking good care that no one saw him. Just look at that bishop, you would have thought at once, degrading and dishonouring his calling; he is a dreadful hypocrite. He seems to be a saint when he is in church, and look at him now, in the middle of the night, at the door of three girls who do not have a very good reputation! And yet, my dear brethren, this bishop, who would certainly have been condemned by you, was indeed a very great saint and most dear to God. What he was doing was the best deed in the world. In order to spare these young persons the shame of begging, he came in the night and threw money in to them through their window because he feared that it was poverty which had made them abandon themselves to sin.
This should teach us never to judge the actions of our neighbour without having reflected very well beforehand. Even then, of course, we are only entitled to make such judgments if we are responsible for the behaviour of the people concerned, that is, if we are parents or employers, and so on. As far as all others are concerned, we are nearly always wrong. Yes indeed, my brethren, I have seen people making wrong judgments about the intentions of their neighbour when I have known perfectly well that these intentions were good. I have tried in vain to make them understand, but it was no good. Oh!
Cursed pride, what evil you do and how many souls do you lead to Hell!
Answer me this, my dear brethren. Are the judgments which we make about the actions of our neighbour any better founded than those which would have been made by anyone who might have seen St. Nicholas walking around that house and trying to find the window of the room wherein were the three girls?
It is not to us that other people will have to render an account of their lives, but to God alone. But we wish to set ourselves up as judges of what does not concern us. The sins of others are for others, that is, for themselves, and our sins are our own business. God will not ask us to render an account of what others have done but solely of what we ourselves have done.
Let us watch over ourselves, then, and not torment ourselves so much about others, thinking over and talking about what they have done or said. All that, my dear brethren, is just so much labor lost, and it can only arise from a pride comparable to that of the Pharisee who concerned himself solely with thinking about and misjudging his neighbour instead of occupying himself with thoughts of his own sins and weeping for his own poor efforts. Let us leave the conduct of our neighbour on one side, my dear brethren, and content ourselves with saying, like the holy King David: Lord, give me the grace to know myself as I really am, so that I may see what displeases Thee, and how to correct it, repent, and obtain pardon.
No, my dear brethren, while anyone passes his time in watching the conduct of other people, he will neither know nor belong to God.