God’s Justice and Mercy Are Within Our Reach


At the end of the Roman Empire, Romans blamed Christians for the fall of the Roman State.  Saint Augustine’s response was true then and is still true today.  The pagan gods did not save Rome because they were nothing more than statues and myths.  If Roman and Greek literature were to be believed, the gods loved themselves, not each other…and much less humanity.

But Augustine also taught a great truth: our God is merciful and just.  The difficulties that men experience are the product of Original Sin.  It is just that man should make reparation for the sins of our first parents and our own that followed.  However, God’s merciful arm is longer than His arm of justice.  While He allows Mankind to experience suffering, He is also present to save us from tragedy, if it’s good for our salvation and that of others.  He gives us an opportunity to offer our sufferings in reparation for our sins.  It is not God’s wish that any of us be lost.  Those souls who lose Heaven do so because they did not take advantage of the opportunity to reconcile with Christ by offering up their sufferings.

But God does not only allow suffering consequently for sin.  Suffering is also a great opportunity for us to engage in the corporal works of mercy.

  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matt 25:34-36).

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of these, the least of my brothers, you did it for me…as long as you did not do it for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ (Matt: 25:40,45).

 

Today it seems as if the world is falling apart.  There are wildfires, floods, hurricanes, blizzards, melting ice caps, crime, wars, and now a virus that could kill us without warning.  In justice. God allows these things as a consequence for our sins:  greed, bigotry, lying, pride, pornography, sex for recreation not for love, adultery, child abuse, neglect of the older members of society, wanting for more than we need, while others do not have satisfaction for their basic necessities, and there is much more that we can add to this list; but I believe that this gives us something to think about.

Saint Francis of Assisi became one of the best known and beloved saints because of his poverty.  But poverty was detachment from anything and everyone that led him away from God, including his father.  Francis fell in love with the Crucified Christ.  He wanted to share in Christ’s sufferings for two reasons.

First: he felt remorse for his sinfulness.  He could see how his sins contributed to the suffering of Christ on the cross.  His entire life was dedicated to making reparation by doing simple things such as fasting and abstinence – and extraordinary things, such as throwing himself naked into snow and later thorny bush when he felt tempted to sin against purity.

          Second: Francis saw Christ crucified in those who suffered leprosy, poverty, injustice, hunger, abuse of any kind.  When one of these sinful events took place within his reach, he protected the suffering, corrected the offender, and counseled those who were on the wrong path.

Francis never saw natural or human disasters as something to be wished for, or to be cursed.  He certainly did not wish for the atrocities committed against Christians in the Holy Land.  He set out to convert the sultan and offer his life in martyrdom.  He was unsuccessful in both.  The sultan grew to respect him and admire him, but Francis did not convert him, nor did the sultan execute Francis for being a Christian intruder.  He admired his courage and his faith – even though he believed that Francis was in error.  But the sultan learned a great lesson in love.  Francis arrived with a few friars, not with a company of Crusaders.  He was there to speak the truth, not for revenge or hatred of Islam.  He pointed out the errors of Islam to the sultan and his court, without intimidation and without argumentation.

         Leprosy was out of control during the Middle Ages, as COVID-19 is today.  St. Francis referred to the lepers as his “Christian brothers”.  He did whatever he could to make them more comfortable and to remind them that they were human, therefore part of humanity and worthy of love.  Francis exposed himself to leprosy, in part because he didn’t know any other way to care for the lepers than to bathe and feed them.  But he also remembered what Scripture said, “[Jesus Christ] laid down his life for us. And likewise we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” (1John 3:16).

There are many ways of offering one’s life for one’s brother.  We don’t have to walk into a minefield to do so.  Every cross that we must bear can be offered for those who suffer as much as – or more than – we do.  In doing so, with faith and without complaining, we earn grace toward our salvation and that of others.

Tragedy can be an experience of God’s justice and an opportunity to ask for His mercy, which He wants to give more than we desire it.

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