December 4, 2022
There is so much injustice in our world. We long for Justice. Jesus brings both Justice and Mercy.
(There were some technical difficulties with this recording. We apologize for the poor quality)
- A thirst for justice in an unjust world.
- Pope Benedict’s Encyclical Letter Spe Salvi on Hope.
- Justice and Grace.
- The Fire of God and its different effects.
- The Hope for Justice.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
God, with your judgment. And now the king. And with your justice, the King’s son. The Psalm we heard today in the beginning of this second week of Advent. And so much of the readings today of the word of God are focused on justice. And this is so different from the Christmassy spirit we see, in our society right now, our society, with its own celebration of Christmas with the Church’s celebration of Christmas begins on the 25th. Now is the special time of grief, of agony. And so much of Advent is focused on justice, hope for a savior, hope for justice. The psalm goes on to say. This is how much it’s focused on, justice, ‘He shall govern your people with justice, and your afflicted ones, with judgment, justice shall flourish in his days and profound peace, till the moon be no more. For he shall rescue the poor, when he cries out, and the afflicted, when he has no one to help him. He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor, the lives of the poor, he shall save.” So, a Savior who is just. So often we will have leaders, politicians, and so forth, who are just and we’re often feeling that that’s not happening. So, because we live in a world of injustice, a lot of injustice, think about how you yourself or people that you care about, have been treated unjustly. And even our justice system, so often does not seem to bring justice. And especially those who are most vulnerable, the poor, or like little children, or the elderly, are especially attacked and treated unjustly. And so, in the human heart, there’s a longing for justice. Jesus says, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice. And then He says, because they will be satisfied. Pope Benedict wrote a document on Christian hope, called Spe Salvi. And I want to share a few reflections on that book, because he speaks of the desire for justice. And so, he speaks about this case about the human efforts, which is the human efforts to restore justice. He says, “the atheism of the 19th and 20th centuries, such as marxism and communism is a protest against the injustices of the world, and our world history.” That’s one of the things which has drawn people to communism is a desire to change the injustice in our world. “Because obviously, our world marred by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and the cynicism of power.” cynicism, of power, how often people’s power or use their power for cynicism, “cannot be the work of a good God. A God with responsibility for such a world would not be a just God.” And so that’s the sense that this, recognizing so much injustice that had led he says, a lot of people to atheism, there must, must not be a good God, because look at all that is happening. So, they felt that since there is no God to create justice, it seems man himself is now called to establish justice. So that was the sense of communism – that man himself has to create a just world. Then he says, “This idea has led to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice, assisted by Communism,” which was saying in their trying to bring justice, it seems that often lead to the greatest forms of cruelty and violations of justice. When a man proposes to create a just world, that without God he often creates an even more unjust world. And he says, “who can remedy this centuries of suffering in the past?” This can be part of the talk about reparations, for instance, in our country reparations for slavery – who can remedy what was already well in the past? He says, “what unbeliever says this would require a resurrection of the flesh?” Resurrection of the flesh so that there could be justice to what was done and ruined or ill in the flesh. “Or who can guarantee a truly just future? Who is capable of creating a truly just world? A world without God is a world without hope, only God can bring justice.” Only God can fulfill the hope for justice. And so, we in Isaiah, the passage we heard today from Isaiah, the prophetic passage today, Isaiah speaks of the one, he says, “not by appearance, shall he judge, not by hearsay shall he decide.” Which is so often human appearances are deceived. “But He shall judge the poor with justice.” So again, the emphasis on the one who will come to judge justly, “he will judge the poor with justice, and decide a right for the lands afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth. And with the breath of his lips, He shall slay the wicked.” So, he’s not only just, but he’s powerful. And because he’s just he judges rightly, because he’s powerful, He is able to punish those who have abused power. And it goes on to say, “In justice should not be the final word.” So, that’s the hope for Christ’s return is also hope for justice and include life where there is justice. And then the Pope considers justice and race. We might think that those are opposed to each other. Our government has a justice system, it doesn’t have a grace system. We need both justice and grace, so we could say both justice, and mercy. Because often those seemed opposed to each other. And he said we need both of these. So he says, “yet, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice.” So even though it suffered, whether of the evil or the goodness of flesh, also, there’s justice for the flesh, there is an undoing of past suffering, or reparation, that sets things aright.” And then he speaks of the last judgment, of the last judgment, our faith in the last judgment relates to this. He says, “the image of the last judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope.” The Last Judgement is not for Christians. It’s not primarily something terrifying. It’s hope. And so, he’s speaking of this justice and grace, or I would say justice and mercy. He says, “God is justice, decrees justice, this is our consolation and our hope. And in His justice, there is also grace.” His justice also has grace. “This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ, Jesus in His crucifixion, and in His resurrection, manifest justice, and grace. Grace does not cancel out justice. The fact of God’s grace doesn’t mean that the justice is gone, it does not make wrong into right. It is not a sponge, which wipes everything away, so that whatever someone has done on earth, ends up being of equal value. Evil doers in the end, do not sit at the table at the eternal banquet, besides the victims, without distinction, as though nothing had happened.” So, God’s grace, does not that mean that it doesn’t matter whether one person did evil or one person good, because God is just, grace and merciful, so all that just disappears. That would be unjust. Remember that when souls stand before God, human opinions, and human appearances, which is so often unjust and misjudged no longer matter. All of that is dissolved by the light of God’s truth.” Pope Benedict goes on, “the judgment of God is hope, both because it is justice, and because it is grace.” God’s judgment is both grace and justice. “If it was only grace and meant that our actions on earth didn’t matter, that would not be just. But if it were all justice, in the end, it would bring only fear to us all, because we all know that we have fallen short, we’re all sinners.” So, he says that in Jesus there is hope, and this makes me think of the words of Jesus to St. Faustina. He says, “Before I come as a just judge.” So, Jesus in this message of Divine Mercy is also talking about His justice. He says that “before I come as a just judge,” that is, He will come as a just judge, but before that, He says, “I first open wide the door of My mercy.” And so that’s what this time of God’s mercy is God’s opening wide the door of His mercy. “But he who refuses to pass through the door of My Mercy, must pass through the door, of My justice.” So, God is offering mercy to all, even the worst sinners are invited to His mercy. But those who reject His mercy must pass through His justice. So, St. John the Baptist in the Gospel Reading, speaks of a fire, a fire of judgment. He says, “Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” So, St. John the Baptist, the precursor to Jesus, is announcing, is giving a very severe warning. Speaking of the justice of God that is coming, that those who resist God, those who reject Him, will be cut down and thrown into the fire. God is merciful, God is patient. But God is also just and those who reject this invitation for mercy and persevere obstinately in evil, will face His powerful judgement. And there will be no escape. The passage goes on, “His winnowing fan is in his hand, he will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into his barn. With the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” So, what is this, most of us don’t have that much experience with a winnowing fan. But it’s to separate the wheat from the chaff. Because that’s what justice is, justice treats each state as it deserves. Before that, it’s all mixed. And so, He comes to separate the wheat from the chaff, to separate what should be kept from what should be burned. And that’s a judgment. And we want justice, but oftentimes our judgments are often very unjust ourselves. But this is the one who will judge with justice. So that’s what this passage is talking about this winnowing fan, what will separate the wheat, which will be kept, and the chaff which will be burned. And so, this word, the fire of justice, there’s many passages in Scripture that’s speaking of it like, like, the letter to the Hebrews says, “Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,” and that’s what we want to do now at this Mass, offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe. For our God is a nice guy – that’s not exactly what it says, for God is a nice guy – “for God is a consuming fire, a little bit differently, right?, a consuming fire. Our God is a consuming fire. Fire in a very different sense. It can be a fire of punishment. The fire of hell. Jesus speaks very clearly, of this fire of hell. It could be a fire which purifies, purifies what is impure still. That’s the fire of purgatory. And so, St. Paul gives us an example of this when he’s talking about worthy and unworthy ministers of the Church, worthy and unworthy ministers of the Church. He says, and he’s using a comparison of a building, which is different people have built with different materials, he says, because it’s ministers, as long as you have a role in building up the Church, it says, “If anyone builds on the foundation, which is Jesus, with gold, or silver, or precious stones, or wood, or just hay, or even straw, each man’s work will become manifest, will be shown. For that day, the day of the Lord will dispose of the day of justice, because it will be revealed with fire, the judgment of fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done, as all things manifest the work of each one. If the work was any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward if he has done a good work. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss. Thou he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” So the Church has seen this as an important passage about purgatory. Those who will not perish in hell that have so much of their work that needs to be purified. And so that because so much of the work was maybe wasted or vain, and so they will be saved, that he says that only as through fire, by purifying fire. That’s what, that’s what so that’s what we experienced on this earth is to help purify us. And God also gives us this extra opportunity in purgatory, to continue that purification. So, there’s a fire that purifies, but then there’s also a fire that transforms what is earthly into Divine Love. St. John of the Cross speaks of a living flame of love that transforms the soul. And St. John the Baptist, in the very gospel we heard today says “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire. Remember the flames, the tongues of fire that appear at Pentecost. And so, this is the fire of the Holy Spirit of divine love. And so, Pope Benedict reflects on this divine fire. He says, “this fire which both burns and saves is Christ Himself.” The fire that must be burned and saves is Christ Himself, the judge and Savior. So, that these readings are speaking of the coming of He who is both judge almighty, just judge and merciful Savior. “The encounter with Jesus is the decisive act of judgment. Before His gaze, all falsehood melts away.” So that this reading is like preparing us for the final judgment, or our particular judgment, when we will appear in the presence of Jesus. It says, “this gaze before it gets all falsehood melts away, the encounter with you, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves.” So it’s not a fire which destroys us. It’s a fire which frees us to be the ones that we were truly created to be, freeing us from the things that have deformed us. “All of what we build during our lives,” going back to the images of St. Paul, “then proves to be mere straw, pure bluster until it collapses,” and how many people even people will seem to be great leaders or billionaires whatever, in God’s eyes that’s just filled with straw, sometimes much worse than straw. “All that is straw will be burned away. Yet, in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation.” Not destruction, but salvation. “His gaze, the touch of His heart heals us through an undeniably painful, painful transformation.” And he sites St. Paul, “as through fire, an undeniably painful transformation as through fire.” And we can already begin experiencing that here on earth, that’s very painful, that’s also the mercy of God. Already as we encounter Him, He begins purifying us, and that purification can be extremely painful. “But it’s a blessed thing in which the holy power of His Love sears us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves, and that’s totally of God.” So, this is the Mysterious Fire, which doesn’t destroy but it liberates, liberates us to become totally ourselves, and so totally of God, what we were created to be, was most deeply in us, which has been corrupted by sin. And so all of the effects of sin, are burned away, so that we can be to who we were made to be. “At the moment of judgment, we experience, and we absorb the overwhelming power of His love over all the evil in the world, and in ourselves. That pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy.” And again, the Lord, by His grace can permit us not to have to wait for that moment of judgment, but already here on earth, He can begin to reveal it to us, especially if we’re looking for it, to reveal to us what needs to be purified. And even give us the opportunity. And so much of the stuff in our lives has been an opportunity for being purified now, to become who we were truly meant to be. St. Paul, in conclusion, St. Paul says, in reading today, so this is in all the readings today, the Psalm, the first reading, the Gospel. And finally, what St. Paul says. He says whatever was written previously, was written for our instruction, that by endurance, at the encouragement of the scriptures, we might have hope, hope, that’s what Pope Benedict’s encyclical was about, Christian hope. That’s what this whole time of Advent is about, Christian hope. So, with our Blessed Mother, our Mother of Mercy has a special place in our chapel during the season of Advent to represent us, as Pope Paul the Sixth says, her special role in Advent preparing for Jesus, she was our Mother of Mercy and to announce this prepares Jesus the son of justice, the King of Mercy. So, this time of Advent remember, as St. John Paul says, we’re living that new Advent Our world is living in a new Advent is a time of hope for justice and hope for mercy. And so, for that, we cry out at Advent, Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
Psalms 72;1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17
1 Corinthians 3:12-15