Mercy and Justice

A Few months ago I wrote this blog on mercy and Justice. I am posting it again because we are in the great season of Easter.  This coming Sunday we will hear about the two disciples who had given up on Jesus and were returning to their old way of life.  Jesus appears to them and among other things, He reinterprets the whole of scripture.  And that is where this blog comes in. I think that Jesus  reminded them that He was the Forgiving Victim and all of scripture must now be read with that in mind. No more punishment , no more eye for and eye. This is hard for us who want people to get the punishment they deserve. This , of course, seems never to include ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

The Mercy of God is gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. But God is also a God of justice. The most profound paradox is of a God who is merciful and forgiving on the one hand and ultimately just on the other.

The debate goes on; a God of Mercy or a God who, in the end will be a “Just Judge.” I am convinced that the right relationship between these two apparent sides of God, is lived out from our earliest days on earth, how we are “grounded” in love and mercy or guilt and judgment. There are those who see God as the Just Judge waiting for us to screw up. And when we speak about “justice” in this vein, we are not speaking about “racial or social justice,” which is a direct result of compassion and mercy.

The only way for us to live, as Jesus wants is for us to practice mercy. Justice can be discussed theoretically, I suppose if we simply say that if there is any getting even it belongs to God alone. And since we need to sift the Hebrew Scripture through the heart of Jesus, our God is a God of Mercy and Compassion. We see none of the anthropomorphic designations of God as a just judge in the words of Jesus.

But we still hold on to the anthropomorphic definition of God as a Just Judge, many times. We look to God to make things “right.” We say out loud or to ourselves that we are waiting for God to punish those we select as needing punishment.

We, “the righteous” are quick to wish for God to beat the crap out of those we consider objects of our wrath. Those of us who “play by the rules” cannot abide those who we see flaunting God’s commandments and getting away with it. The sad thing is that if our faithfulness to God is motivated by our fear of judgment, there is not much love and mercy there. Our love for God should flow from our deep appreciation of us being loved in spite of our sinful selves. But that presumes we have the insight to see ourselves as sinners and not persons who don’t need to be forgiven, like the Pharisees of old. None of us gets what we deserve, thanks be to God!

If our faithfulness to God is motivated by our fear of judgment and not out of a love that comes from our being forgiven, our lives are pretty hollow.

Mercy is God’s name. And the Blood of the Lamb, in spite of our sinful selves, has purchased our lives. And our response to God’s love and mercy for us—even before we sin—is to love and have mercy on all others. We are the Church of Mercy, as we hear Pope Francis say all the time.

“True mercy, the mercy God gives to us and teaches us, demands justice; it demands that the poor find the way to be poor no longer.”

So, God is not a Just Judge but a merciful and compassionate Father who wants all of us to know we are loved in spite of ourselves and then to bring that mercy and compassion to others, especially the poor and the powerless.

This is the Year of Mercy. Let’s not squander it. Let us pray and work for peace and justice and receive the mercy and compassion of a loving Father, slow to anger and rich in mercy.