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  Word To Life


Sunday Scripture Readings, July 25, 2010

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

July 25, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle C Readings:
1) Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138:1-3, 6-8
2) Colossians 2:12-14

Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

The other night my husband and I had dinner with another couple, longtime friends from our college days. We had a lot to catch up on, especially concerning our several teen and young adult children.

On the way home, I reflected on how challenging it can be to parent adolescents in a way that respects their individual uniqueness and prepares them for responsible adulthood. I also recalled instances in which raising our children required a dose of “tough love” that allowed them to suffer the unpleasant but natural consequences of their choices while we stood aside and elected not to intervene. In truth, that kind of love is often “tougher” on the parent than on the child!

How does a compassionate mother or father avoid being a pushover? At what point does discipline become rigidity? What is the right balance of justice and mercy? For a parent, those questions are difficult. As followers of Christ in the world beyond our own households we face even more complex questions about what it means to act justly.

In today’s readings, Abraham repeatedly presses God to reconsider the punishment of the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, even to the extreme of sparing an entire sinful city for the sake of a mere 10 righteous people. Justice that is punitive gives way to justice that is merciful.

Both the psalmist and Jesus reinforce the image of a God who is always attuned to the persistent pleas of those who need help. God’s generous response is not contingent upon what the petitioner deserves. Rather, God answers from the depths of his compassion and mercy. Again, God’s “justice” and mercy are one and the same.

St. Paul puts it yet another way: Even while “dead in transgressions,” we are forgiven the “legal claims” against us by the Lord, who has nailed them to the cross. God, the compassionate Father, has extended to us the “toughest” love of all -- the surrender of his son Jesus, who suffered, died and rose for our sake.

As members of his body “buried with him in baptism,” we are called to remember our own undeserved-ness, reconsider our notions of justice and temper that justice with mercy and compassion in our dealings with one another.

QUESTIONS:

With what issue of “justice” are you currently wrestling? How can the Scriptures and their many examples of God’s justice help you to discern and shape your own merciful response?

SCRIPTURE FOR ILLUSTRATION: “Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?” (Genesis 18:25b)

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