Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Fifth Sunday of Lent: The Harmony of Justice and Mercy

In today's well-known Gospel story (Year C), Jesus shows us by His example the beautiful results of a proper harmony between justice and mercy.  Justice means giving each person what is due to them - reward to the innocent and those who grow in virtue, punishment to the guilty and to every person all that is necessary for human flourishing.  Mercy means generous compassion, which, when appropriate, tempers the strict requirements of justice. 

Jesus is just.  He recognizes that the woman caught in adultery is a notorious and, thus far, unrepentant sinner.  She is deserving of the punishment according to the law of Moses.  Jesus is merciful.  He stoops down to be close to her, as she is no doubt cowering in fear on the ground, ready to protect her face and head from the stones about to be hurled at her.  He writes on the ground - Scripture records not what but it is reasonable to assume it was a message to the woman, a profession of love and a call to conversion written in the sand.   
Image result for love message written in sand
A statement of love can itself be a call to conversion.  When we feel loved, we desire to be our best. 

Jesus is merciful.  When none of the elders, standing before the Messiah and hearing His challenge "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone," feel worthy to condemn the women, He looks at her and says "Neither do I condemn you."  Jesus is just.  He commands her: "No, go and do not sin any more."  He "meets her where she is at" - on the ground in fear - but He does not leave her there.  He both sets her mind at ease with His forgiveness and offers a challenge to greater holiness.  He knows that letting her off the hook for her sins is insufficient.  For her to truly flourish as a woman, she needs to seek virtue and avoid sin.  Jesus always has our very best interests at heart.  It has happened that women who have had an abortion and seek the healing grace of Christ find themselves in the confessional of a priest, who, because mercy outweighs justice in his approach to the sacraments, tells them not to worry because they did not sin or offers platitudes like "It's ok; Jesus loves you and He knows you didn't mean to do anything wrong."  I have heard women say that they would rather hear the priest acknowledge the sin that weighs so heavily on their conscience and give them the assurance the Jesus, the living font of mercy, has conquered it.  There are other such examples and each penitent is probably aware of several.  The human heart longs for a harmony of justice and mercy.  It is essential to the ministry of the priesthood that we provide such a beautiful gift to God's people. 

Where justice and mercy blend in harmony, God is at work for the conversion and salvation of all.  As priests, we are privileged to observe the Father's handiwork as He heals a wounded soul in the Sacrament of Penance.  The gift of confession is at once spiritual and psychological.  Acknowledging sin and doing the work of reconciliation - confession, penance, and firm purpose of amendment - makes for healthier lives.  The grace of the Lord restores us to a right relationship with Him and with the Church.  Having confessed our sins, we can leave them in the past, for Christ is "doing something new" in us with each encounter we have with Him in the confessional.  May we never lose sight of the value of this blessed opportunity.  Our richest gains we count but loss if only we can know Jesus intimately and be conformed, however slowly and painfully at times, to His divine image. 


No comments: