Justice and Mercy: For Our Timely Consideration

Isn’t it interesting that we so often forget that even Jesus said some who expressly identify themselves as Christian will not be welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven. Today’s Gospel passage, along with its complementary First Reading, is a difficult selection of Scripture to hear. Just because you talk the talk or appropriate the name Christian doesn’t necessarily mean you cut it, so to speak.

What I am struck by in this Gospel is the admonition the Lord appears to offer those today who so readily mouth “Lord, Lord” and claim to do the work of Christ by their words and actions, yet seem to miss the point entirely. Here I think of those who have done despicable things in the name of Christ and the Church.

Now you may think to yourself, “but wait, how do I know what the will of Jesus’s Father in heaven is?” Well both St. Paul and the author of the Gospel of John make that very clear for us. The assertion advanced in the New Testament is that Jesus is the decisive embodiment of God’s Revelation. In other words, to paraphrase the Gospel of John, nobody has ever seen the Father, but now the Father has been revealed in the Son — Jesus Christ. As one former professor of mine liked to say, “if you want to know what the will of the Father is, if you want to know what the Father is like, look at the Son!”

Jesus makes this clear in his words today: “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.” His words and the actions the proceed from them are the message of the Kingdom, where the rules of this life are reversed: where the last are made first and the poor become wealthy; where the powerful are put down and the weak exulted; where the sinner is welcomed and self-righteous is left aside.

This is who we are called to be. We are not supposed to simply invoke Christ and His Church to serve our own desires and will, but follow in Christ’s (albeit difficult) example. As my Franciscan brother preached this morning in the campus chapel, it is not a matter of God’s justice or mercy, but the intertwined reality of God’s justice and mercy. The operative word here is: God’s! As in, not our notion of justice and mercy but God’s notion of those attitudes.

Want to do more than say “Lord, Lord?” Then live a life modeled after the Word and Deeds of the Lord, a welcoming and loving way of being that is open and welcoming to all.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” (Matt 7:21-27)

One Response to “Justice and Mercy: For Our Timely Consideration”

  1. Ken Lovasik Says:

    As Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr says/writes so often, we think of the Kingdom of God as something that awaits us at the moment of death … in the afterlife. But our Lord Jesus says in the Gospels, “The Kingdom of God is WITHIN you!” The Kingdom is NOW … and yet to be fulfilled in eternity! We are invited to step into the Kingdom NOW. The sad fact is that being a person who does ‘religious things’ and who simply ‘observes man-made religious laws’ does not mean that we are truly entering the Kingdom. Entering the Kingdom has a lot to do with ‘letting go’ of our own ideas of what the Kingdom is — like the idea that the Kingdom and the Church are one and the same — simply trying to walk in the footsteps of Jesus … and this means ‘looking at things in a new way!’ We need to remember that when Jesus proclaims that the ‘Kingdom is at hand’, He also says, “Repent … and hear the Good News!” In the Greek, in which the NT is written, ‘repent’ really means ‘to look at things in a new way… to change one’s attitude and orientation’. One of the reasons that we have difficulty understanding that God’s justice is always intertwined with His Mercy is because OURS ISN’T! This is a sobering thought that, if taken seriously, could make this coming Lenten Season the most grace-filled ever in our lives…and even more, we may even find ourselves in the Kingdom…NOW.

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