Psalm 112: Call to Justice

Saturday of the Thirty-second Week in Ordinary Time

November 14, 2020

Blessed is the one who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in the Lord’s commands.

Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we pray with Psalm 112. We have prayed with this Psalm a few times recently:


Today however, with the usual elasticity of scriptural prayer, a new theme suggests itself, thanks to the two readings in which our psalm is couched.

That theme is justice,
and what it really means for us in our daily lives.

Wealth and riches shall be in the blessed one’s house;
where generosity shall endure forever.
Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
who is gracious and merciful and just.


In secular culture, the words “justice” and “law” carry very different interpretations from biblical meanings. In the Bible, justice is that right-balance of Creation in which all beings support one another in the fullness of God’s love.

It is a balance which we all must help achieve, as we see in our first reading from John. In this unique letter, addressed to only one person – a Christian named Gaius, John requests material help for his early missionaries.

Beloved, you are faithful in all you do for the brothers and sisters,
especially for strangers;
they have testified to your love before the Church.
Please help them in a way worthy of God to continue their journey.

Such requests mark the life of the Church throughout the ages, because our call in Christian community is about helping one another to live a full life in Christ. We could easily read John’s plea as a plea to us, especially in these times of seeking just global immigration policies.


In our Gospel, Jesus tells a parable which is overtly about prayer. But it carries deep themes of the justice God desires for all people, especially the vulnerable:

Will not God then secure the rights of God’s chosen ones
who call out day and night? 
Will God be slow to answer them? 
I tell you, God will see to it that justice is done for them speedily. 
But when the Son of Man comes, will he find justice on the earth?


Practicing justice and righteousness means active advocacy for the vulnerable. It means to do the works of mercy as a way to love God.

Light shines through the darkness for the upright;
that person is gracious and merciful and just.
It is well for the one who is gracious and lends,
who lives a graceful justice justice;
they shall never be moved;
the just ones shall be in everlasting remembrance.

Still lots to pray with in Psalm 112, even after a third round! 🙂


Poetry from Micah 6:8

You have been shown,, 
O human heart,
what is good.
Then what does the Lord 
require of you?
Just this:
to act justly,
to love mercy,
to walk humbly 
with your God.

Music: Seek Justice; Love Mercy – by Me in Motion

Justice and Mercy Shall Kiss

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time

November 10, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, one theme threaded through our readings is that of “The Law”. “Law” is a frustratingly elastic word and concept which runs the gamut from tyranny to benevolent guidance depending on who administers it.

2thess3_5 scale

In both our first reading and our Gospel, we find people trying to curtail the freedom of others by invoking the Law. In 2 Maccabees, King Antiochus attempts to incorporate the Jewish people by fracturing their religious practice, that which identifies and unites them as Jews. On the surface, the story seems to be about eating pork, and one might wonder if that resistance is worth dying for.

But the real conflict is between tyrannical domination and spiritual freedom, between “Empire” and “Kingdom” – a struggle we have seen endlessly repeated through history and current events.

When “law” is interpreted to advantage some and suppress others, it is no longer law. The essence of law is always the wise administration of mercy balanced with justice. The understanding of such law grows from covenanted relationship with the Creator who wills the good and wholeness of all Creatures.

In today’s Gospel, some Sadducees (perhaps sincere, but more likely trying to trap Jesus) ask him to solve a hypothetical problem regarding marriage in the afterlife.

Jesus doesn’t bite. He explains to the questioners that eternal life transcends all their human perceptions of time, relationship and law. The earthly laws by which we either bind or free one another in this world evaporate in Heaven. Only Mercy and Justice order eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Paul tells us that we are called to be examples of that eternal kingdom now. He knows how hard it is, and so he blesses us:

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father,

who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement

and good hope through his grace,

encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed

and word.

May God’s law of love be deepened in is so that we – like the Maccabees, like Jesus – will have the courage and strength to live it in a sometimes hostile world.

Music: The Law of the Lord is Perfect

Bearer of Hope

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 11, 2019

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Hebrews11_1 Fith_hope

Today, in Mercy, we have a few slightly complex readings. But, as with all Sunday lectionary choices, they are strung together by a single theme. 

Upon first reading, we might think that theme is FAITH since the word is mentioned at least eight times. And, indeed, “faith” is the foundation of these readings – the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Desert Jews, the disciples, and the new Christian community. 

It is the testimony of this ancient and enduring faith that encourages us to be ready, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel:

Do not be afraid any longer, little flock,
for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom.

This phrase of Jesus reveals another, deeper, theme: courageous hope.

How awesome that God, in covenant with God’s People, could keep alive – for 400 years- the hope of salvation! How miraculous that these ordinary farmers, milkmaids, herdsman, and shepherds could sustain their hope through numerous generations!

Today’s readings are sending us this message:


Be courageous!
You are the Bearer of Hope
to this generation!


It may seem in our world, and in our individual lives, that God tarries beyond tolerance in answering our hope – for peace, civility, equality, security, goodness.  But we must remember that with God there is no time. God is already responding within the long fidelity of our hope. (Our clocks and Apple watches just are obscuring our view. 😉)

That faithful hope creates the space for charity. And charity is the human face of Divine Love already Abiding.

Faith, Hope, and Charity – the theological virtues (Remember that from your Baltimore Catechism?). 

Virtues
The Theological and Cardinal Virtues with Wisdom: Hope, Faith, Charity, Fortitude, Temperance, Liberality, Justice and Sapientia by Maarten de Vos (1532-1603)

These virtues are the foundation of the spiritual life. Contemporary theology ties these irrevocably to the virtue of justice – the seeking of right relationship in all Creation.

Anselm Min, Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University, has edited a powerful book on this subject. (Unfortunately, now out print and thus hugely expensive). One reviewer of the book, Lameck Banda, Professor at Justo Mwale University in Lusaka, Zambia, offers this insight into Min’s collection:

“The running thread throughout this book is that, whichever way the contemporary culture may seek to view and treat faith, hope, and love, the ultimate goal of these virtues is to radically and comprehensively address issues which tend to undermine the agenda of justice.”

That summary in itself gave me a lot to think and pray about. I hope it inspires you as well. God bless your Sunday!

Rohr

Music: Hymn of Hope from The Secret Garden by Rolf Lovland

Can You Drink the Cup?

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

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Mt20_22 cup

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells the story of Mrs. Zebedee, who sought a prejudiced advantage for her two disciple sons.

Jesus said to her, “What do you wish?”
She answered him,
“Command that these two sons of mine sit,
one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”

Sounds a little like something ripped from today’s headlines, doesn’t it.

headline

There is a natural inclination to advantage those we love. But when we do so to the unjust disadvantage of others, that’s a problem.

We know from experience that people use various points of leverage to gain advantage in life. We see people use money, power, political connections, and other influences to get a job, choose a school, land an important invitation, get a traffic ticket written off, etc., etc. Maybe, on occasion, we are one of those people.

Today’s Gospel teaches us a lesson. In gaining such advantage, we may, as Jesus says, “not know what we are asking for”. Can we actually DO the job, succeed in the school, … become a better person by what we have maniputively gained?

The Gospel also brings before us the “other people” who lost the right to what we unjustly claimed. How do they begin to see us? What do we lose in respect and mutuality within our community? How do we begin to see ourselves in relationship to justice, honesty, sincerity and truth?

Jesus hopes that we will love every person to the extent that we want her/his just advantage as much as we want our own? That is the “cup” He drinks through his Passion and Death.

Let us ponder Jesus’s question to us: Can you drink the cup that I will drink?

Music:  The More I Seek You ~ Gateway Worship

Peaceful Defiance

Monday, June 18, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/061818.cfm

Today, in Mercy, we encounter one of the most difficult passages of the Gospel – the admonitions to turn the other cheek, and go the extra mile. 

Wow, these go against every natural instinct (at least mine! 👿) If someone slaps me, I’m slapping back! If someone grabs my goods, forces my labor, or has the guts to borrow my necessities, I’m gonna’ resist! What about you? Even the Book of Exodus supports “an eye for an eye” kind of justice, right? Well, Jesus says, “No, not right!”. 

In this passage, Jesus shatters our natural inclinations for retribution, retaliation and even self-preservation. 

He says that when we are struck or insulted, we should not respond in kind. Rather we should continue to stand our ground without being diverted into the violence of the attacker.  

He says that when laws are used unjustly against us, we should not respond in kind. Rather, we should stand our ground and expose the unjust law by our willingness to engage it in the public forum.

He says that when unrecompensateded work is demanded of us, we should give it and more, thus doubly exposing the demander’s offense.

He says that to turn our back on a borrower, no matter how inopportune, is a form of violence against the borrower.

What Jesus is asking of us is a non-violent response to the insults and outrages thrown at us. But He is not asking us to be victims or doormats. Each of the admonitions instructs us not to ignore evil, but to respond to it with positive, peaceful strength.

defiant

Jesus himself is the quintessential example of this prophetic, non-violent lifestyle. He condemned evil for what it was, but he did not adopt its methods to do so.

Eileen Campbell

Sister of Mercy Eileen Campbell, arrested at the White House
for peaceful protest of inhumane immigration policies.

Recent history offers us stellar examples of individuals who have understood and practiced this Gospel passage: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Oscar Romero, Berta Cáceres, and other modern peace activists – ordinary Christians like you and me.

They have heard and responded to today’s Gospel. Can we?