14 October – St Callistus
Callistus (d. 223) was born a slave, owned by Carpophorus, a Christian in the household of Caesar. His master entrusted a large sum to Callistus to open a bank, which took in several deposits, made several loans to people who refused to pay them back, and went broke. Knowing he would be personally blamed and punished, Callistus fled, but was caught and returned to his owner. Several depositers begged for his life, believing that he had not lost the money, but had stolen and hid it.
They were wrong; he wasn’t a thief, just a victim, but he was sentenced to work the tin mines. By a quirk of Roman law, the ownership of Callistus was transferred from Carpophorus to the state, and when he was later ransomed out of his sentence with a number of other Christians, he became a free man. Pope St. Zephyrinus put Callistus in charge of the Roman public burial grounds, today still called the Cemetery of Saint Callistus. He later became an archdeacon and the 16th pope.
Most of what we know about him has come down to us from his critics, including an anti-Pope of the day. He was, on more than one occasion, accused of heresy for such actions as permitting a return to Communion for sinners who had repented and done penance, or for proclaiming that differences in economic classes were no barrier to marriage.
This last put him in conflict with Roman civil law, but he stated that in matters concerning the Church and the sacraments, Church law trumped civil law. In both cases he taught what the Church has taught for centuries, including today, and though a whole host of schismatics wrote against him, his crime seems to have been to practice orthodox Christianity. He was martyred for his faith.
– Patron Saint Index
No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance? Your stubborn refusal to repent is only adding to the anger God will have towards you on that day of anger when his just judgements will be made known. He will repay each one as his works deserve. For those who sought renown and honour and immortality by always doing good there will be eternal life; for the unsubmissive who refused to take truth for their guide and took depravity instead, there will be anger and fury. Pain and suffering will come to every human being who employs himself in evil – Jews first, but Greeks as well; renown, honour and peace will come to everyone who does good – Jews first, but Greeks as well. God has no favourites.
The Lord said to the Pharisees:
‘Alas for you Pharisees! You who pay your tithe of mint and rue and all sorts of garden herbs and overlook justice and the love of God! These you should have practised, without leaving the others undone. Alas for you Pharisees who like taking the seats of honour in the synagogues and being greeted obsequiously in the market squares! Alas for you, because you are like the unmarked tombs that men walk on without knowing it!
A lawyer then spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said ‘when you speak like this you insult us too.’
‘Alas for you lawyers also,’ he replied ‘because you load on men burdens that are unendurable, burdens that you yourselves do not move a finger to lift.’
And when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
I think today’s readings speak for itself. The saying “judge not, lest ye be judged” runs as a central theme in the readings. The Bible speaks often against judging others. Remember the adulterous woman in John 8:3? The Pharisees were ready to stone her for the charges brought against her, but Jesus dared them to condemn her if they were without sin, and no one did. And in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus says not to judge others because we would be measured in the same way. “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and not see the plank in your own eye?”
In today’s gospel reading, St Paul was directing his message to those who believed that they were above other races because they were the chosen race. He puts them in their place by reminding them that God will judge us all according to our thoughts and actions. If we are to judge people a certain way, then we too will be judged by God accordingly. Who are we then to condemn others when Jesus chose not to condemn the adulterous woman?
Today’s readings also do more than just telling us not to judge others; it tells us about our place in God’s eyes. Some time ago, The New York Times published an opinion piece by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. He said that “We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.”
Putting aside the circumstances surrounding his opinion which was the Syrian attack, Mr. Putin’s piece is a sobering reminder that though we may be rich or poor, young or old, successful or not, where God is concerned, we are all equal. When we were born, we were all equal, and though we may have lived our lives on Earth very differently, when we die, we will also die as equals. When we stand before God on judgment day, we will be equal, and God will mete out His judgment on us all equally. “Here there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, who is very generous with whoever calls on him.” (Rm 10:12)
(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, you made us all equal in your eyes. Just as you have not condemned the adulterous woman, let us too not condemn our brothers and sisters, acknowledging instead that we are all one in God’s name.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks for your mercy Lord, that because you have not judged us, that has given us the chance instead to repent. Thank you for the second chances, and may we too give others a chance, as you have given us.