An Eastern Rite priest friend of mine likes to remind his congregation that when fasting Easterners set high standards in fasting disciplines as opposed to Westerners who set a basic minimum standard for fasting. Certainly I have to acknowledge that Eastern Christian fasting is an admirable challenge and it makes Roman Catholics look very wimpy, especially when they look for loopholes.
Loopholes are basically about looking at ways to “get away” from the general intent and spirit of our devotions. In matters of justice, clever lawyers look for such loopholes to help their clients “get away” with their desires – for freedom from incarceration or fine, from their broken marriages, from their tax burdens, etc. In matters of Justice (with a capital J), one can think of fairness and equality as a basic minimum standard for happiness and harmony.
The Year of Mercy reminds us, especially Romans, that we are a people that look to exceed the minimum standard for happiness and harmony. Mercy transcends Justice. Mercy is acknowledging your fair share of the cake and offer it up unselfishly for someone else – perhaps someone in greater general need or someone in pain and suffering in other areas of their lives. The acknowledgment and generosity that follows exceeds the basic expectation for happiness and harmony.
Knowing our own sinful state in many areas of our lives, we know how scary facing Justice is. Rejoicing in God’s Mercy – for His desire to maximize our happiness and harmony, we participate by paying that forward infinitely. This year, we challenge ourselves to exceed our basic sense of justice and look to develop a habit of Mercy. Seeking loopholes to feign a false sense of justice wouldn’t even be on our radar. We’ll join our Eastern brethren in pushing ourselves to do the utmost to emulate the God we worship.
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