To protest against God in the name of justice is not helpful. A world without God is a world without hope (cf. Eph ). Only God can create justice. And faith gives us the certainty that he does so. The image of the Last Judgement is not primarily an image of terror, but an image of hope; for us it may even be the decisive image of hope. Is it not also a frightening image? I would say: it is an image that evokes responsibility, an image, therefore, of that fear of which Saint Hilary spoke when he said that all our fear has its place in love. God is justice and creates justice. This is our consolation and our hope. And in his justice there is also grace. This we know by turning our gaze to the crucified and risen Christ. Both these things—justice and grace—must be seen in their correct inner relationship. Grace does not cancel out justice.
Spe Salvi 44
Reflection – Today in Madonna House we are burying one of our members, Paul Holland, as I mentioned a couple of days ago. This passage from Spe Salvi is quite apt, then, for the mystery of community is once again going through, the mysterious passage of one our own from death to life through this strange and terrible encounter with Christ, an encounter that none of us really knows anything about until we pass through it.
There is justice, and there is grace. There is justice because God loves us. We matter to him, and so our actions matter to him. What did we choose to do in this world? How have we chosen to love? What has our response been to the Love given to us in Christ by God? These things matter; there is justice, there is a reckoning. What that reckoning looks like and how it is managed—well, that we don’t know too much about. But God’s genuine love for us demands it. It is no sign of love to say to someone, “Oh, whatever – I don’t really care what you did.” That’s not love – that’s indifference, and when we humans say that kind of nonsense to each other (usually in the name of love) it really means, “I want what you give me so badly that I will ignore everything real about you.”
Of course we keep loving people who do wrong things, but we are never indifferent to the harm they do to themselves and to others. That is not love; that is selfishness.
So our loving God exercises justice towards us… but in that justice there is grace. There is mercy. There is Christ, and his wounds, his death, his strange and most mysterious self-offering for us.
There is justice, but ‘justice’ itself comes to mean something very different in light of all this business of Jesus and his saving work. How to make sense of it all, especially since none of us will ever know exactly how it works until we are there? Well, we come, I believe, into an encounter with Christ somewhere in all this mystery. For some, it may even be before death – this strange moment when there is ‘just me’ and ‘just Jesus’ – no pretence, no hiding, no fighting—just encounter. And this encounter is just—everything in us is that is not love is burned, consumed, smelted, sifted—all the images we care to use to describe purification. But there is grace, there is mercy in this encounter. The one who judges us died to save us. If we have any openness to this gift of salvation, he will take it and draw us through justice to mercy, through purification to illumination and union, through mystery of death into mystery of life eternal.And so we are getting ready to bury Paul Holland on a cold Canadian winter day. Paul was a very ordinary man, with the ordinary struggles and pains, brokenness and goodness of all ordinary men. And now he is somewhere in this mystery, and so we pray for him. And all of us ordinary men and women—all of us are moving into this same mystery, this same strange, strange encounter with Him, with Love, with the just and merciful One. So let us pray for one another, too, that grace may temper justice, and God may be merciful to all of us.