Being fully human in justice and mercy

| Deacon Gordon Bird | June 24, 2020 | 0 Comments

God does not make mistakes. He balances justice with mercy perfectly via his wisdom. Justice encompasses a just due to God and neighbor. Penalties require payment; wrongs need reconciliation. By looking into the depths of our hearts, God’s omniscience prevails in pure acts of love and forgiveness. Hence, his mercy abounds. As Jesus, God became one of us, so he could teach us how to be fully human in word and by example. To embrace the perfection of the divine in this discernment is to live a Christian life of virtue.

Hanging in the balance today are these two virtues: justice and mercy. They are meant to be mutually inclusive. A disordered proportion of their weight results in a less-than-stable outcome, and iniquities take over. Due to the tragedy of the death of George Floyd, we are all directly or indirectly facing the injustices that occurred. Many of us will never know all the details, much less empathize with what it feels like to be discriminated against, yet the events, from cause to effect, are taking their toll on anyone who has a listening and caring heart. Wrongs happen when the love of God and love of neighbor — the two greatest commandments (cf. Mt 22: 37-40) — are sifted out of the balance of virtuous living. Jesus taught that fulfilling the law entails devotion to both commandments, leading us to be more fully human and closing in on the kingdom of God.

We have much to learn to be perfect due to our fallen nature. The crisis we are experiencing can provide the opportunity to advance in perfection, as trials and tribulations often do. Our own Catechism teaches: “Justice is a cardinal/moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor” (CCC 1807). Mercy is a fruit of charity — loving kindness, compassion, or forbearance — shown to someone who offends. In a perfect outcome, mercy fulfills justice, and all stakeholders move forward in healing and/or amending their lives. Due to our human condition, however, it does not often work perfectly.

Turning a blind eye to the issues that devalue the very existence of any human being does not play well. Nor should it. “Every human being, regardless of considerations of race, education, intelligence, strength, or accomplishment, is a subject of inestimable value because he or she has been created by God and destined by God for eternal life” (“Seeds of the Word,” 231).

For example, racism is a sin. Church teaching is clear that unjust discrimination based on the race of a person is wrong. Lacking “love of neighbor” is a violation against the dignity of a human being, and a sin against justice. “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the divine beatitude; all therefore enjoy an equal dignity” (CCC 1934). We are all meant to flourish in the fullness of life and give our fellow man that opportunity. These are teaching moments for all of us.

We are not perfect — and yet, Jesus compels us to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). There is always the need for ongoing development in our lives, and Jesus is asking us to go deeper as children of God. We can all start by helping and loving others in our own sphere of influence to better understand the Christian duty imprinted at our baptism — our “munus” — to sanctify, to teach, to lead in service.

As Catholic Watchmen, this is to be sacrificial protectors, providers and leaders of our family, in our parish and throughout our community. We start by listening attentively, praying fervently, acting prudently, and having effective dialogues with family members regarding the present crisis. We should do this for all trials that come in life, especially when it impacts the dignity of the human person. To be fully human, we must work in imitation of Christ — in justice, in mercy — for peace, enveloped by the virtues of faith, hope and charity.

“For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”
(2 Ptr 1:5-8).

Deacon Bird ministers at St. Joseph in Rosemount and All Saints in Lakeville, and assists the Catholic Watchmen movement. Learn about the archdiocese’s Catholic Watchmen initiative at thecatholicwatchmen.com.

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Category: Catholic Watchmen