Archive for November 22nd, 2021

Monday, November 22, 2021

Isaiah 13

Joy, Mercy and Justice

The Medes, the Persians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians, the Israelites. Dedicated soldiers and a wrath-filled God. Destruction and ruin. Howling and weeping. Hearts melting in terror. Faces aflame. A darkened sun. Insolent tyrants. Infants dashed to pieces. These images from ancient days are on our morning, noon and evening newscasts. Nothing much has changed, we might say. Sometimes the human race seems stuck in its insistence that life will be miserable. We expect justice and forgiveness, but how do we live individually and collectively? We want to exact justice while acting in mercy; yet how does this play out in our lives? 

We often see justice as harsh judgment and mercy as the soft and yielding balm that heals the curse of injustice, but is this truly so? Is it not true that full and total love can be far more demanding than judgment? And if this is so, is this why we humans persist in reveling in despair and sorrow rather than in joy and thanksgiving? 

I am thinking about something I read in an essay by Anthony Esolen in the March 2010 MAGNIFICAT in which he writes that we often ask for love yet are unwilling to accept it. We think that mercy is a sweeter and easier thing than justice, but it is not so; for justice takes us as we are, but mercy assaults us and batters at the gates of our heart, demanding that we be made new . . . Sometimes sorrow is easier than joy, and despair more comforting than hope.  (6 and 7)

We see injustice and we cry out for compassion. This compassion arrives and we frequently criticize those who deliver it. Is it shame that we feel? Do we feel a sense of control lost to the all-forgiving nature of mercy? Are we anxious about being unworthy? Why is it that we persist in remaining in separateness? Why do we shun unity?

We have been an a journey in which we discover the big and small ways that joy enters our lives and today we reflect on how we react when others deliver the mercy and justice that we cannot or do not deliver. 

The reading from Isaiah today is the beginning of an oracle against the pagan nations.  As we travel along our Lenten road, where do we take lodging?  Do we choose to reside in the dark house of ill-will and disunity because this is what we are accustomed to and this is want we expect? Or do we seek haven in a place that fosters community and compassion because we choose the joy that comes with reformation and change?

As we pause to reflect today on where we are, and who we are and what we have come to expect, let us also consider how well we receive forgiveness and compassion when it is offered to us, or when we witness it offered to others. Let us consider how willing we are to change in order that joy and thanksgiving are our natural way of being in the world rather than despair and sorrow.

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