31st Sunday of Ordinary Time – 3rd November
A God of mercy and justice
When we encounter situations which cause us difficulties which cause us to suffer or which cause us harm our immediate cry can be for justice against the person who has caused this event to occur in our lives. We want to see external resolution before we can internally forgive a person. Justice not only has to be done but has to be seen to be done. Yet what we discover is a God of mercy and justice. The ordering of the phrase is important as it helps us understand how God draws us into a life-giving relationship. We need to experience ourselves as loved sinners rather than as redeemed servants. The first recognises that God reaches out to us when we believe that we are of little worth and want to hold God off at a distance. The second is often more attractive because if someone pays the price at least we can try and work off the “debt”. The difference is that if we rely solely on God’s mercy, we start to see every aspect of our life being viewed through the vision of God who seeks the best for ourselves even when we do not choose it. In granting mercy, we can start to see that we are not the centre of the universe and it allows us the opportunity to see how our lives matter to God and to others. No longer do we try to privatise our relationship with God or with others in the terms of a divine transaction or earning credit points to salvation. Rather it is a more radical shift which recognises that all good things come from God and all good actions are prompted from that life-giving relationship. Our life moves in and out of this communion which notices that every action seeks to build the kingdom of God.
In this way we can approach life not as paying off a debt which has already been paid but rather a sustaining and life-giving relationship which calls us to abide with God each day. No longer do we focus solely on what we are doing but rather on who we are called to become in Christ. It is through this life-giving relationship that God sits down with us even when we notice we do not live up to our own expectations of “holiness”. God spends time with us so that we can capture his heart as he captures ours. It is about a constant surrender and yielding to that divine touch which prompts us to respond tenderly and justly to those in greatest need around us. Its focus is that every action seeks to embody that presence of the person who walks close by our side.
Fr. John Armstrong