"The Parable of the Good Samaritan" (detail) by Jan Wijnants

“The Parable of the Good Samaritan” (detail) by Jan Wijnants

“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and in it there is no cause for stumbling. But he who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (1 John 2:9-11)

We live in a time of growing misunderstanding of and resentment toward others. Many comments regularly posted on social media by self-identified Christians are so vile as to reveal a deep-seated hatred for others. In the United States, we wonder if there will ever be a return to civility and collaboration in our governmental institutions.

St. John reminds us that if we hate our brothers and sisters (that includes neighbors and strangers), we do not truly love the Lord and do not remain in Him.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus taught us that those who love Him keep His commandments. Those who love Jesus take up their crosses and follow Him. We are Christ to others when we look like Him—by how we behave, which path we walk, what we say. We are to practice justice. We are also to be merciful.

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward God is called the “virtue of religion.” Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” “Masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church ¶ 1807)

Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ. (Pope Saint John Paul II, Rich in Mercy, Encyclical 1980)

As Advent draws to a close and Christmas arrives, look for ways each day to practice justice and mercy. Always ready to offer a helping hand and remove barriers where there is need; always willing to forgive when pardon is sought; always seeking reconciliation with God and others.

Come, Lord Jesus.

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