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Today, as in the time of the prophets, justice continues to be elusive. It is bought by the rich in courts that preserve those who have money and punish those who are poor and unprotected. The few who truly do justice are called fools and radicals and are even forbidden in many cases from feeding the hungry and from giving shelter to refugees. Lovingkindness and mercy are laughed at. They are for the weak, for those who, in derision, are called bleeding hearts. Millions are being spent on weapons that kill people and destroy cities because mercy is no longer a virtue but an enemy of power. And humility has become alien in a world where people are strutting about armed to the hilt, threatening with violence and death those who do practice humility.

From the time of creation, these virtues have been eroding, a process that would lead to the cross, as St. Paul whose conversion we remembered this past week, is reminding the Corinthians and us. Those who despise justice, mercy, and humility laugh at the weakness of the Cross; for them, it is foolishness. Others think that a powerful saviour cannot, and should not, succumb to such weakness as death on the Cross; they find the Cross a scandal and turn their backs on him who loves them. Again, it is not as if we don’t know. St. Paul cried out as powerfully that “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.” Following the example of the Lord Jesus Christ whom he loved above all else, a redeemed Paul proved with his life and death that God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Think of the millions of Romans who lived during Paul’s lifetime. How many can we remember? History reminds us of Nero, but we remember him only for his evil and cruelty. Who else is remembered? They have become as dust. By contrast, Paul has never been forgotten, because he insisted on proclaiming God’s weakness on the Cross, and by doing so changed all of history and our own lives.

It is not as if we don’t know what is of value in the eyes of God; we do. It is not as if we have not been told again and again that the Word is always with us, He gathered his disciples on the mountain and he “taught them, saying: ‘Happy are the poor in spirit.’” Here again is that call to walk humbly with our God. To that, Jesus adds a promise of the hope he preached everywhere he went. The kingdom of God belongs to the humble, not to the powerful and strong. In that lesson that we call the Beatitudes, he continues his blessings on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, as strong as our need for nourishment and water. He promises that those who do justice will not remain unsatisfied in their hunger and thirst. Jesus promised to his disciples and those who today give shelter to the persecuted, who go out in the desert to offer water and food to migrants and refugees, he promises that the mercy they are showing will be rewarded with mercy by a loving Creator.

So much fear is running through this land and through so many other lands. Our strength and our courage come only from the one who created us and who loves us.  Fear is dispelled only by love and mercy. We are children of God, and as such, we live and act only as peacemakers. We will not be immune to persecution. He who never told an untruth promised us that even then  we are to rejoice and be glad. It is then that we join the great crowd of prophets and saints and all who dwell in that blessed crowd of unknowing. How seductive it is to live our easy lives, to be praised and admired. But we are called to the danger of proclaiming and doing justice, to the foolishness of showing kindness even when that is not the proper thing to do; we are called to show humility by obeying a God who shows us the way of Christ which is difficult but, ultimately, is the only way that leads to light and to life.

The Kingdom we have inherited is no earthly territory but the promised land of heaven. It is Zion where the Lord reigns forever. And, as we say in today’s Psalm, its blessings are for those whose hope is in the Lord.


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