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What is a very short word that makes the connection of everything in every language? This word has three letters in English and in German, two letters in French and in Vietnamese, one letter in Spanish and in Russian. It is… the word “and.” In theology, one of the powerful features of God’s revelation is the connection between different elements: God is one and in three persons; Jesus Christ is true God and true man; Mary is the Mother of God and our Mother.
Justice and mercy
Today’s readings show us characteristics of God’s attitude toward us: justice and mercy. In the first reading, justice is said to be on God’s side. In the Gospel, Jesus invited his disciples to be merciful as God the Father is merciful. Justice alone makes us despair of ourselves. Mercy alone makes us lazy. Justice alone is a ticket to hell, so to speak. Mercy alone is a license to sin. We need one and the other. We know that God is just and merciful at the same time. We can become just only through his mercy.
Be just and be merciful
It is noteworthy that Luke transformed the teaching about perfect justice in Matthew’s Gospel into a teaching about mercy. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (6:36). In the same way, Luke reproduces Matthew’s warning concerning judgment. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged” (7:1). This warning is related to the theme of earthly retribution in proverbial style. For his part, Luke focuses on the divine character of judgement: “Stop judging… Stop condemning… Forgive” (6:37).
Measure and overabundance
It is also important to note that while Matthew mentions the exact correspondence between the amount we measure out to others and the amount measured out to us by God, Luke emphasizes the overabundance of the gifts in return. In Matthew, we are told: “the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you” (7:2). In other words, for Matthew, there is a just return of things. By contrast, in Luke, we are told: “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap” (6:38). In other words, for Luke, we will receive a greater gift than the one that we give to others.
Matthew and Luke show us two different attitudes of God toward us. It is by following the God of justice and of mercy that we can change our judgment of others: Stop judging… Stop condemning … Forgive. By doing so, we will be abundantly rewarded by God himself.
Prayer: God of justice and mercy, help us to become like you, just and merciful at the same time.
Resolution: Try to be simultaneously more just toward myself and more merciful toward others.