God of Mercy, God of Loving Kindness

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

This week's readings from the Lectionary for Mass will continue to present us with passages from the history books of the Hebrew Scriptures. There is a strong theme that runs through all of those books; namely, the theme of reciprocity. Simply stated, it says that if you do good things, God will reward you with good things. If you do evil things, God will punish you. It is this kind of thinking that led the Israelites to believe that leprosy, death of a loved one, any chronic illness, the loss of one's fortune, etc., were God's punishment visited upon an sinful person. Conversely, if one was rich and healthy, that person's blessings were a sign of that person's goodness in the eyes of God. With this type of attitude, one can understand how one might become a bit judgmental when it comes to poor or seriously ill people.

This attitude is intimately tied to the fact that the Israelites did not believe in an afterlife of reward or punishment. If God was a just God, then God's rewards and punishments had to be meted out during life.

The suffering and death of Jesus put an end to that type of thinking. Jesus is the just one. Yet God did not protect Jesus, the Son of God, from what most people considered the surest sign of God's displeasure, death by crucifixion. By his resurrection, Jesus casts off thousands of years of judgmental thinking and emphasizes a point that the Hebrew Scriptures had been trying to make but failed; namely, God is merciful and good, full of loving kindness and compassion. These words are repeated often in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Jesus utters the words himself in the Gospel selection for today's Mass: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you." (Matthew 7:1-2)

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