Are You Missing Out? Week 2: Mercy with Justice
Message: Mercy does not cancel out justice.
For Advent homilies I take this question: Are you missing out? Last Sunday we heard Jesus warning: that we might become so distracted we miss the most important events – the salvation God offers us.
This week we begin the Year of Mercy. I do not want you or me to miss God’s mercy. Before talking about mercy, however, I want to address a hesitation: I fear some will conclude that mercy cancels justice: That those who commit crimes and deliberate cruelty will in the end get off scot-free. We all know that in this world there is little justice – that some people “get away with murder.” Will that unfairness continue into the next world? If that’s the case, many people say, I want no part of it. I agree with them.
Let me give three examples.
–One, Auschwitz. In preparation for World Youth Day, I have been reading about the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Can those who carried out those crimes take a place next to their victims – with no reckoning?
–Two, domestic cruelty. We see cruelty not only on a huge scale like Auschwitz or the Gulag Archipelago, but in our families: cruel words and acts, some thoughtless, others deliberate.
–Three, police brutality. In another country police abused a friend of mine and they laughed about it. Such corruption is not our common experience here, but in other nations and throughout history, it has been the rule. Will God simply sweep those abuses under the carpet? Will bullies have the last laugh? The Bible says “no”! Today John the Baptist speaks about God dealing with crooked ways and rough roads. Next week we will hear John describe a fan that separates wheat from chaff – the good part kept and the worthless part burned.
John does not invent the idea of divine justice. The prophets before him speak about a day of accounting. They know we cannot separate God’s love from his justice. In today’s first reading the prophet Baruch says that God will lead his people “with mercy and justice.” Pope Benedict stressed that mercy does not cancel out justice. “It does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth ends up being of equal value.” (Spes Salvi 44) We sometimes say “people are basically good,” yet we know a terrorist – or a man who murders people at a Planned Parenthood clinic – is hardly the same as a food bank worker.
In the long run we cannot have mercy without justice. Justice, in fact, includes mercy. In Jerusalem, near the remnants of the Temple they have poor box. They did write on it “charity” but “justice.” Justice means to restore right relationships. We need justice before we can talk about mercy.
So where does that leave us? You and I have have acted unfairly. Only a narcissist says, “I’ve never wronged anyone!” No, deep down we all long for mercy – even more than justice. That’s why St. Paul says to leave justice to God – and get busy seeking forgiveness, reconciliation. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
A person who reflects on his life will thirst for mercy. We have seen that mercy does not cancel out justice. The two go together, although mercy has greatest importance. The Bible mentions mercy 416 times – and justice 157 times. Between mercy and justice there is word mentioned over 200 times. We will hear it next week. Don’t miss out.
For today, let’s remember that justice includes mercy. God leads us “by the light of his glory, with his mercy and justice for company. Amen.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
December 6, 2015
Second Sunday of Advent: Preparing for the Lord
I think that most of us are in the middle of Christmas preparations. We are trying to get cards out and gifts bought and wrapped. We are preparing for parties, baking cookies, getting ready for the celebration. The celebration is the birth of Christ, the Divine Presence given to us as one of us. We have to remind ourselves continually that it is for this that we are preparing. All the beautiful traditions that are unique to Christmas: the cards, gifts, carols, and shows, are just reflections of the deep celebration we share when we are united to the One who is both one of us and the Second Person of the Divine Trinity.
Second Sunday of Advent
Luke’s elaborate attempt to locate the arrival of John the Baptist in the context of secular history seems to be the answer to every historian’s prayer. In fact, however, these references are very imprecise, and none more so than the apparently decisive “fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” The problem is that the Roman emperor Tiberius shared power with Augustus for two years and we do not know when Luke is beginning his count of the years of Tiberius’ reign. One must wonder whether Luke is not perhaps smiling to himself as he teases historians in this way.
Second Sunday of Advent, Year C—December 6, 2015
Our readings today sum up in one word what people like us, who are waiting for the Lord’s arrival, should do while we wait: Prepare!
Gospel (Read Lk 3:1-6)
St. Luke carefully sets the historical stage for the momentous event he wants to describe. See how concrete both the civil and religious details are in this description. Promises God had made to his people through the prophets centuries earlier were beginning to be fulfilled, in real time and space. We immediately recognize that what is about to unfold is no fairy tale. Within history, “the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert.” When Jesus, the Son of God, keeps His promise and returns to this world for which He died, it will also be within history, although it will the last event of our history, bringing time (and thus history) to an end.
In Advent, We Can Do Small Things with Great Love
“Not all of us can do great things,” Blessed Mother Teresa said. “But we can do small things with great love.”
Many of us want to do great things during Advent. I, for one, could list a hundred (thousand) ways I want to become holier in time for Christmas. But I know I’m not strong enough to do them all.
That’s where Mother Teresa’s humble approach comes to the rescue: Do small things with great love.
Advent Brings Angels: As Real as Radio Waves
[Throughout Advent, Fr. Dwight Longenecker will be examining Angels and their role in the stories of our salvation. – Ed]
Medieval theologians were sometimes mocked for debating how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, and Thomas Aquinas was probably one of the theologians who was the target of the ridicule. St.Thomas is called “the Angelic Doctor” not only because of the sublime spirituality of his philosophy, but also because he devoted a good bit of his study to the subject of angels.
The Light in Meditations for Advent
Advent can be overlooked. Perhaps, it is more correct to say that we are often looking in the wrong direction during this season. As the lights and tinsel adorn city streets, the true meaning of the Light that came into the world – one still too bright for many – is all too easily lost amidst these other ‘lights’ that, ultimately, cast only shadows. Forced, even at times desperate, ‘jollity’ of one sort or another, possesses nothing of the ‘glad tidings’ that await us all on Christmas night. One antidote to this is spiritual reading. To that end one would do well to pick up a copy of Bossuet’s Meditations for Advent.
Advent Comes … and With It Comes the New Church Year
Everybody knows, even those of us who have lived most unadventurously, what it is to plod on for miles, it seems, eagerly straining your eyes toward the lights that, somehow, mean home. How difficult it is, when you are doing that to judge distances! In pitch darkness, it might be a couple of miles to your destination, it might be a few hundred yards. So it was, I think, with the Hebrew prophets, as they looked forward to the redemption of their people. They could not have told you, within a hundred years, within five hundred years, when it was the deliverance would come. They only knew that, some time, the stock of David would burgeon anew; some time, a key would be found to fit the door of their prison house; some time, the light that only shows, now, like a will-o’-the-wisp on the horizon would broaden out, at last into the perfect day.
How to Meet Jesus This Advent
It took me two days, but I finally got all the leaves raked up in the yard. I used the blower to shoo every one of those darn dead things away from the house and the fence and the hedges and then applied old-fashioned hard labor to rake them into piles that my kids, in days long ago, used to love to jump into. I thought about that as I was working; saying my beads on the tips of my gloved fingers as I bent down for yet another scoop and stuffed the leaves into the recyclable bag, knowing I would call my chiropractor next week to alleviate the inevitable ache in my back that would certainly come despite how much I stretched to loosen my muscles that very morning. Old back muscles sometimes don’t follow proscribed protocols no matter what anybody says.
At the Evening of Life, We Shall Be Judged On Our Love
My husband’s uncle died Sunday. He was 82, and had lived a good life.
Before he died, he saw his dead sister, our Aunt Tid, and his mother. That’s not uncommon when we are nearing the end of this life. We get glimpses of the new life we are about the enter.
My guess is that God sends loved ones to us, to help us make that transition, that they are a welcoming committee of sorts. I believe God sends our angels, alongside our loved ones who have passed ahead of us, to lead us home.
Death is not annihilation. Your body and soul will be separated for a time, but you will not stop existing, not even for a moment. On that day, you will hear someone say, You are mine.
Why Did She Go to Sunday Mass?
I believe we often have definitive rationales for what we acknowledge as true and for what we do, even though we may have difficulty expressing them.
A few years ago I had the opportunity through a parish program to chauffer a lady to and from Sunday Mass. Despite her frailty, she went to Sunday Mass because she recognized the inseparable link between sacrifice and sacrament.
She lived in an elder care home on my way. At Mass she sat in the first pew to have Communion brought to her and others who were too frail to participate in the Communion procession. After three months or so, when I stopped at the home on a Sunday morning, I was informed that she died during the week. She had gone to Sunday Mass to the end of her life.
A Church of reverence: Unworthy or irreverent reception of the Eucharist is not something that the Church should take lightly
The Christians of first-century Corinth must have been a rowdy lot.
St. Paul, writing to these converts of his, chided them for their less than edifying manner of celebrating the Eucharist and added a stern warning: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27).
How to Stop Hurting People’s Feelings with this One Virtue
While the word “nice” has a common use that means pleasant or enjoyable in general as in ‘have a nice day,’ ‘a nice person,’ or ‘a nice job,’ the word does not have the praiseworthy meaning that the word kind signifies.
The virtue of kindness expresses charity in small and large ways that include both speech and behavior and manners and morals.
O Me of Little Faith
I guess you never know how little faith you have, until it is tested. Faith never grows, unless it is tested. I have found it to be a vicious lifelong cycle. I think I have faith, it gets tested, and I realize how little faith I have after all.
I have been praying for something for what seems to be a long time. A “long time” in human terms is anywhere from fifteen minutes to decades. In actuality, when I have the benefit of hindsight, I can see where God may have been working in the background lining everything up, but I didn’t notice because I was too preoccupied thinking he wasn’t listening or doing anything. “Doing anything” meaning, what I wanted, how I wanted it, and when I wanted it done.
Getting to Know Jesus
In my work with our parish’s Confirmation students, I try to convey that Jesus Christ is more than a nice guy whose life is recorded in the Bible. Jesus wants us to know Him and to love Him. He wants to be a part of every aspect of our life, if only we would invite and allow Him to do so.
This past weekend we celebrated the feast day of Christ the King. This is one of Jesus’s many roles in salvation history. It’s quite easy for us to state the fact: Jesus Christ is King of the Universe, but how easy is it for us to answer the question of whether or not he is the King of OUR Universe, the King of OUR lives?
Is Original Sin and the Fall of Man True?
The Catholic Church asserts the truth that mankind has suffered a privation of grace as a consequence of disobedience. By the sin of our first parents we are saddled until the end of time with the defect of Original Sin. Man is fallen. To be born into this world is to be burdened with a life of toil, trial and torment. Adam and Eve were in a state of grace in the Garden of Eden before succumbing to temptation. The doctrine of The Fall is a most obvious proposition expounded upon by nearly every religious and philosophical tradition in history. To deny man’s fallen nature is an unprecedented narrowness based on implausible pathology grounded in the denial of the most vital attributes that make us fully human.
10 Ways to Get Over Yourself and Become Humble
“It’s not all about you!” Except, it sort of is. You are there every minute of your day. Everywhere you go, there you are. Who stars in all your dreams? You again.
Yet, detaching from self is mandatory for holiness. It is our life-long task, to get over ourselves by following Jesus whose life, death, and resurrection were all about us. Here are ten ways to help with that task.
In the 60’s the Beatles composed a song and an album: “Sergeant Pepper’s lonely heart-club band.” World-famous for this song and album, the Beatles were placing their finger on the pulse of the modern society, a society with many individuals suffering from a crushing and almost unsupportable loneliness.
There are many ways that individuals cope with loneliness; some are excellent, others are good to a certain extent, others are bad and still others are deadly. A crushing loneliness can grip an individual in such a way that depression sets in and he/she feels life has no real meaning and questions why even live. Some, even, contemplate a recourse to suicide.
10 Handmade Christmas Gifts From Monks and Nuns
We’ve never been keen on Black Friday—however … there is something to be said for getting shopping done this week so you can get the most out of Advent, as Zoe Romanowsky wrote here last week.
Perhaps we could spare a few minutes to Christmas shop—online—for these lovely gifts, handmade by monks and nuns from monasteries and religious communities. These are a few of the Aleteia staffs’ favorites:
The Myth of Having it All
The holidays always remind me of how different I am from my husband. He is a doer. He does things. He wakes up every morning and goes through the same routine to get ready, then he figures out his mission for the day and sets out to accomplish that mission. Every. Day.
Me? I am a sloth. I never have a plan for anything, unless that plan will help me get in my pajamas and in bed early, then I have a plan. I do not need anyone to tell me to take a day off or to relax, because I am always looking for a way to crawl back into bed with a book. Relaxing is more than just something that I do, it is a state of being for me.
Ten Things to Do as a Catholic Before You’re Dead
Bucket lists (i.e., lists of stuff you should oughtta wanna do before you kick the bucket) are hot these days. So, canny fellow that I am, I thought I would put together a bucket list of ten things a Catholic should oughtta wanna do before he or she takes the dirt nap, lays down in the back of that long black Cadillac, and otherwise stops squeezing the plasma pump behind the sternum.
The trouble with this clever idea is that you then have to make a judgment call. Should I give you my personal bucket list about stuff I’d like to do (which might include something like “read all the works of Shakespeare”) leading to your eyes crossing and a warm numb feeling stealing over you? Or consider: Suppose I vowed to learn how to make the perfect omelet and serve it to my wife before I croak. It could even be an act of piety and an honor to God done from the core of my Catholic faith and fulfilling a vow I whispered to my sainted grandfather on his deathbed (after a moving and dramatic story that is too long to tell here).
Ten Positive Principles of Personal Wealth
I was going to write a blog post criticizing what I call “faux Franciscanism”–that is the problem in the church in which poverty is praised for its own sake.
We should be clear. Poverty is not a virtue on its own. The poor are not blessed because they are poor.
We should remember that poor people can also be greedy, selfish, violent and bitter in their poverty.
In Word and Deed: Virtues for Daily Life
Children’s Book Picks Inspire Holiness
Raising virtuous kids is important. But to do what is good and avoid what is wrong is not always easy for children (or grown-ups, for that matter).
For young readers, stories can often show what virtue looks like through heroic characters, simple actions and encouraging words.
Before I Sleep, I Say Thank You
Written by Carol Gordon Ekster
Catholic Priests: A Special Blessing
Catholic priests are heroes to me. After the sacrifice and moral fiber of my own father in this earthly life, the spiritual fathers God has sent into my life have most inspired me to be a better man in my own vocation. I’ve gotten to know diocesan priests, Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Oblates of Mary Immaculate, Oratorians, Oblates of Wisdom, and Fathers of Mercy who served as pastors, confessors, bishops, administrators, teachers, theologians, tailors, gardeners, preachers, broadcasters, canon lawyers, authors, and friends. In all their variety, they all have had several things in common: all of them have adored Jesus, venerated Mary, who is the mother of priests, and all of them are flawed sinners just like me. These are imperfect but dedicated people, working on personal holiness and growing into their vocations as they lead their flocks. My experience has been nearly always positive, and it makes me cringe when I hear people single out their priests, spread scandal, and detract their reputations.