'Labor without stopping': St. John of God

"Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." Lk 6:37

If you listen to talk radio as the participants spew about the faults of others, if you gossip around the water cooler at work, and if you snicker among your friends about the peculiar new student sitting alone at the lunch table, you engage in a pastime all too prevalent - that of judging others. To hold another responsible for his defects and not be answerable to our own makes us hypocrites.

On Mar. 8, the feast day of St. John of God, imagine if his mentor, the famous preacher John of Avila, had condemned him instead of embraced him. What a loss the world would have suffered! Certainly, St. John of God gave nearly everyone reason to doubt his character. He had a misspent youth. Then, he worked as a soldier and mercenary dealing in such unsavory activity as the slave trade. 

However, in midlife, he became burdened with guilt from the anguish he had caused. One day he heard a sermon by John of Avila that affected him so deeply he went mad and ran through the streets screaming with remorse for his sins. In the former mercenary, John of Avila recognized a desire for atonement and absolution. While others surely snickered at him, St. John of Avila visited him in the asylum and instructed him to do good works.

The advice was heeded. Upon his release, John of God spent his life caring for the sick, poor, and unwanted. He founded the Order of Charity and the Order of Hospitallers of St. John of God. His motto was: "Labor without stopping. Do all the good works you can while you still have the time."

Jesus tells us not to judge others but rather judge ourselves. Look at your own faults. Leave the judging of others to God. Saint John of God serves as proof of the power of forgiveness.

Image: detail, Saint John of God by Murillo (1672). Public domain.

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