AmericanCatholic.org
 
Skip Navigation Links
Home
Catholic News
Saints
Seasonal
Special Reports
Movies
Shopping
Donate
Share:
Facebook
Twitter
Google Plus
LinkedIn
Email
RSS Feeds
Bible Reflections View Comments

We Need Both Justice and Mercy
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, December 8, 2013
Click here to email! Email | Click here to print! Print | Size: A A |  
 
One of the ongoing discussions about the papacy of Pope Francis is whether he is emphasizing God’s mercy to the exclusion of a sense of righteous judgment. The followers of John the Baptist would have understood this quandary. They suspected that Jesus, too, was a bit too cozy with sinners. Good Christians know a proper balance is required.

Jesus referred to John the Baptist as the greatest of the prophets. Like Ezekiel, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Isaiah before him, John was a voice in the wilderness, totally focused on his call and on God’s message.

Like the prophets of old, John called on the people to repent of their sins. He had a vision of what was to come, and he knew it would call for a complete change in people’s lives. He insisted the status quo was no longer enough for salvation.

In the Gospel, a group of Pharisees and Sadducees come to John the Baptist relying on their status as sons of Abraham. But John tells them the ax is at the root of trees that aren’t producing fruit. The Gospel gives us a vivid image of dead wood and chaff being burned while the fruit and grain are gathered into barns to nourish and sustain life.

John’s words today remind us that Advent is the beginning of a new liturgical year. It is a season of taking stock of our foundations, of examining the roots and structure of our spiritual lives. But it also calls us forward into the amazing new growth that emerges from the miracle of the Incarnation.

Roots provide valuable nourishment. They make life possible. But if they’re too constrained, they can inhibit the very growth they’re designed to nourish. As Catholics we have a strong tradition and often a cultural connection to our ancestors in the faith. This gives us a sense of identity and belonging.

But our faith identity can become tied to our ethnic, national, and cultural roots. If we rely too much on those tangled roots to define us, we can become insular and closed off from a world that waits to hear the Good News of Jesus. Our rootedness in one way of life or one set of attitudes can keep us from reaching out to those who are different, those we have avoided out of fear and hatred. To be fruitful, we must be open to this sort of newness.

Isaiah’s well-known vision of nature in harmony calls us to imagine sworn enemies sharing food and shelter, frolicking as companions. The prophet neither minimizes the distinctions nor emphasizes the nearly unreachable idealism of the vision. He reminds the people that the Messiah will not judge by appearance or hearsay but will bring justice to the poor and afflicted. This is the vision that was realized in the birth and ministry of Jesus, Son of God and Messiah. Following in his footsteps commits us to move beyond normal human boundaries and expectations.

Paul tells us Jesus fulfilled the covenant of the Jews and brought a vision of God’s mercy to the Gentiles. Paul’s gifts unite the dreams of these two groups into one vision of Christianity. He doesn’t destroy healthy differences; he doesn’t deny individual roots. He sees the possibility for communion.

Advent challenges us to rise above the increasing polarization that threatens our world, our country, our communities, even our families. The repentance demanded by John is a good place to start. He challenged his listeners to produce good fruit. We might look at our own lives this Advent to see what fruit we are bearing.


More Bible Reflections
Subscribe to Bringing Home the Word
Subscribe to Homily Helps
blog comments powered by Disqus


John Kanty: John was a country lad who made good in the big city and the big university of Kraków, Poland. After brilliant studies he was ordained a priest and became a professor of theology. The inevitable opposition which saints encounter led to his being ousted by rivals and sent to be a parish priest at Olkusz. An extremely humble man, he did his best, but his best was not to the liking of his parishioners. Besides, he was afraid of the responsibilities of his position. But in the end he won his people’s hearts. After some time he returned to Kraków and taught Scripture for the remainder of his life. 
<p>He was a serious man, and humble, but known to all the poor of Kraków for his kindness. His goods and his money were always at their disposal, and time and again they took advantage of him. He kept only the money and clothes absolutely needed to support himself. He slept little, and then on the floor, ate sparingly, and took no meat. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, hoping to be martyred by the Turks. He made four pilgrimages to Rome, carrying his luggage on his back. When he was warned to look after his health, he was quick to point out that, for all their austerity, the fathers of the desert lived remarkably long lives.</p> American Catholic Blog If we can see the face of God in the child whose birth we celebrate, then we will see the face of God in the man whose death has set us free, whose blood inebriates our hearts and causes them to sing, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.

 
PICKS OF THE WEEK
Thirsting for God
Feast on these daily reflections from Mother Teresa to discover the secrets of a life fully surrendered to God.
Sisterhood of Saints
Enjoy a daily dose of guidance and inspiration from widely known female saints such as Sts. Monica, Teresa of Avila, Thérèse of Lisieux, Joan, and Bernadette.
New from Richard Rohr
"This Franciscan message is sorely needed in the world...." —Publishers Weekly
Who Inspired Thomas Merton?
Learn new ways of living in harmony with God, creation, and others, courtesy of St. Francis and Thomas Merton.
A New Daily Devotional for 2015
"A practical and appealing daily guide to the Poor Man of Assisi." —Margaret Carney, O.S.F., president, St. Bonaventure University

 
CATHOLIC GREETINGS
Advent - "O Antiphons"
“Come, O Emmanuel” Use a Catholic Greetings e-card to share your Christmas Eve plans.
Advent - "O Antiphons"
“Come, O King of the Nations” Use Catholic Greetings to remind friends of holiday get-togethers.
Fourth Sunday of Advent - "O Antiphons"
"Come, O Radiant Dawn" Before dinner this evening gather your family around the Advent wreath and light all four candles.
Fourth Sunday of Advent - "O Antiphons"
“Come, O Key of David” Before dinner this evening gather your family around the Advent wreath and light all four candles.
Advent - "O Antiphons"
“Come, O Root of Jesse” Christmas is less than a week away! Take time now to schedule e-cards for a later delivery.



Come find us at: Facebook | St. Anthony Messenger magazine Twitter | American Catholic YouTube | American Catholic


An AmericanCatholic.org Site from the Franciscans and Franciscan Media Copyright © 1996 - 2014