Isaiah 55: 6-9:
"Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near. Let the scoundrel forsake his ways and the wicked his thoughts; let him turn to the Lord for mercy; to our God who is generous and forgiving. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways, and my thoughts above your thoughts".In preparing for this Sunday's Scripture reflection a quote from one of my favorite C.S.Lewis novels, a book called 'Till We Have Faces' quickly came to mind. The book is a wonderful read, it contains an underlying theme that nothing we see here on earth is yet in it's true form, thus, we do not yet have the capacity to understand it all. In the book the main character, Orual, has come to the throne of the gods with a book of complaints that she has written against them, (it is set before the Christian era). She is in the company of a dear old mentor of hers, the Fox, when he makes the extraordinary claim that she will not get justice from the gods, at least justice as she understands it. "Are the God's not just?" she asks the Fox, to which he replies: "Oh no child, what would become of us if they were?"
Thank goodness God's justice is not my justice. I can speak of understanding the gravity of God's justice, but his justice is perfect, and mine can often become shallow and petty, and fairness can triumph over justice in truth. Does seeing justice done always mean that fairness is achieved? And is we cannot see justice in a truer light, how will we ever be able to grasp what is true mercy? It is not fair that a woman who is raped has to bear the emotional and physical burdens of a pregnancy for nine months, but how can we call abortion justice, or mercy? Have we lost our ability to perceive transcendent realities, like an innocent immortal soul that despite the injustice that has occurred in his or her conception, God has allowed and willed to live? If we cannot discern the higher justice in allowing the child to be born, how will we even begin to be able to have an inkling about God's justice that is so far beyond our capacity to know? Or how deep His mercy is? Can I accept that I do not know all ends, and I must continue to call upon the Lord, whose greatness is unsearchable so that I can begin to understand that I do not understand!
If we lose the ability to appreciate the magnificent and unfathomable transcendence of God, and that our universe is full of signs pointing to this, directing us toward it, I fear that we will stunt all of our highest aspirations, both on a personal and a cultural level. Even if we mean them to provide lasting justice, these attempts will prove to be a crumbling facade. We will get short term fairness, but in the end we will be weakened and our ability to call upon the Lord in truth will fade, because we will not have the heart to endure His greatness.
Anyone who has children knows what it can mean to serve the tyrant of "fairness" all the time. It means that all projects have to be carefully weighed and measured, and generosity and creativity are sacrificed for it. I have been a room mother to more that a few school parties, and it is getting increasingly difficult to find really fun and creative games, because, well....we don't want to seem unfair to the other class if your games are more fun, the other kids will be upset (seriously)! Sometimes, though an apparently unfair situation can root out in you an area that really needs the generous mercy of the Lord.
The Gospel of Matthew has Jesus telling another parable, this one about a landowner seeking laborers for his fields. At the end of the day all the workers are payed the same wage, even those who have only worked the final hour of the day. And at this the faithful workers who labored all day in the sun complain that it is not fair! His justice is not ours; and here he has, in his mercy, revealed that the faithful laborers in the field harbor in their hearts envy. I say 'in His mercy' because it is all to common for the spirit of envy, or anger, or fear to be deeply hidden inside of us, and it is sometimes only revealed when our superficial ideas of fairness and justice are challenged.
Here is the beginning of knowing the truth about ourselves, not so we can despair, but so we can call out to the Lord in truth! And when we start to call out to the Lord in truth we will begin to understand that our understanding of life, joy, happiness suffering and death are far from complete. He will begin to root out the ways in which we thwart authentic justice and therefore, authentic mercy. We will know of mercy undeserved, yet generously poured out, like Orual discovered in the book. Because all is not yet revealed to us. We can discover authentic fear of the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom, a wisdom that we dearly need.
Here is an awesome reflection by Mon. Pope on the Archdiocese of Washington blog.
Peace and Grace, Heidi