Justice, Mercy, and a Dirty Loincloth | July 27

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We’ve heard a lot about the Kingdom of God in recent days. Last week, Fr. Andy preached about how the Kingdom of God isn’t a place, per se, as much as a Person. There’s an awesome Avett Brother’s lyric from their song “True Sadness” that goes like this, “Just know the kingdom of God is within you, even though the battle is bound to continue.”

I think this lyric is all the more true for Catholics. In the Eucharist, we receive the Kingdom directly into our bodies. Jesus is the mustard seed that will grow in our souls. Jesus is the yeast that will leaven our souls. Then He calls us to take Him to the rest of the world.

But what to make of that first reading… it’s actually one of my favorite bible passages. Essentially God tells Jeremiah to go get a new pair of underwear, wear them for a while, and never wash them. After some time went by, God told Jeremiah to take that underwear and bury it. After still longer God tells Jeremiah to go dig up the underwear which at this point was “rotted, good for nothing.” Honestly so weird haha. And then God goes on to say (paraphrased), “Israel will be like this pair of underwear if you don’t get your act together.” I don’t think this image of God makes a lot of sense in our day and age.

God is love, it’s true. It’s critical. God is Love. But unconditional Love doesn’t mean unconditional acceptance, unconditional forgiveness. Bishop Barron often talks of the two arms of God: justice and mercy. An image of God without one or the other in incomplete. For a long time in the history of Christianity, people feared God because of His justice. They saw only a raging tyrant who is out to punish these miserable humans. That’s not God. Today, I see God spoken of in the same way that we would speak of a teddy bear. He’s here to make you feel better. He wants you to be safe and secure. It’s all going to be okay. Don’t worry about anything because He forgives you and loves you just the way you are. To some degree this is true, but it doesn’t really capture the truth. This image of God isn’t really God either.

God is the perfect combination of justice and mercy. Sin must be punished. That’s the way it is. As long sin exists in the world then it separates us from God. There is nothing we can do to change that. By ourselves, we’re like an unwashed, buried loincloth: rotten and useless. The wages of sin is death and justice demands that death be paid, but in His mercy, God paid the price for us. God is so merciful that He satisfied justice on our behalf. That is what the two arms of justice and mercy look like. This satisfaction is freely offered to us, but in order to truly accept it we must align our lives with it. It is one thing to say “yes” with your lips, but another to adopt that “yes” with your actions. Jesus Himself told us that not everyone who says to Him “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s serious.

In order to truly become a disciple of the Lord, we must acknowledge both justice and mercy. We do this through repentance and by changing our lives. There will always be room to grow. There will always be sins we need to be purified of. There is no “good enough.” But, in His mercy, God will always give us the grace to continue to say “yes” to His will.

I’m not saying this is easy to understand. But the closer you draw close to God in prayer, the more clearly you will see Him, and the more sense this partnership of justice and mercy will make. They’re not opposed to each other; one is not more important than the other. We need both of these characteristics of God. Because He is good.


-Amanda Benner, Director of Evangelization