Mercy Beyond Justice

“Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20) was the theme of Joint Statement of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in the Philippines Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines Christian Unity and Ecumenical Relations for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrated last January 18-25, 2019.

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Mercy Beyond Justice
Mercy Beyond Justice

Since the early days of the history of our salvation, justice has been uplifted as an aspiration. For the Children of God seeking a Promised Land, only justice was to be pursued. This is not about exclusivity or isolation, but rather a recognition that justice will be the key—the touchstone—for journeying to a better and peaceful future.

The Philippines, along with many countries of the world, faces the same complexities of confusion and chaos from different areas of responsibilities and living our true Christian values and principles.

God’s promise seemed to be the only thing that can satisfy each one of us. Yet, we all still crave for Justice to be pursued!

By justice, we often think that culprits must be duly punished yet we all know that justice without mercy is simply cruelty while mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution.

All of these intensify only the burdens that we all have and often could be even overwhelming, but, perhaps, the most difficult to wrap our minds around have been a conscientious question that we can ask to each one of us: “If someone does something evil to me or to my loved ones, am I able to forgive?”

Hammurabi replied with his “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth . . .” which surely reduce us all to be physically handicapped. We all know that true justice cannot be achieved with any type of violence.

Jesus who is the point of Unity among us Christians showed us clearly through the Gospel how justice should be pursued: “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’ ” (Matthew 5:44).

Wendell Berry explains it with his personal experience as a Christian: “The Christian Gospel is a summons to Peace, calling for Justice beyond anger, mercy beyond justice, forgiveness beyond mercy, and love beyond forgiveness.” These are the good manners and right conduct we have always embraced as Filipinos and Christians: in such a time as this, justice and only justice shall we pursue.

As we join in this week of Christian prayer and unity, we clear our eyes to see the truth of God’s justice. We pray for our nation and all the inhabitants therein, that they will know peace, genuine peace based on justice and righteousness. We pray for an end to all the exploitation of the weak and that everyone who toils could receive a just and livable wage. We pray for an end to forced migration, where livelihood is available for all who desire to stay in a secure homeland and that all are relieved of their current vulnerabilities to human trafficking and abuse.

We pray that God changes the hearts of our leaders to work only for the common good of the people and not for their personal interests. We pray to God to give us and our leaders the Wisdom to always pursue what is right and just accompanied with His Love. We pray that God will raise us up as humble and righteous people, with the bravery and grace to pursue justice in the Philippines and in the world. And as we pursue justice—and only God’s justice—we pray that God will transform us into peace builders and change-makers who have set our eyes on God’s desired future, where Shalom (peace and prosperity) will be known throughout the land.

Signed by:
Most Rev. Angelito R. Lampon, OMI, D.D., Chairperson, CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs (ECEA) and Ms. Minnie Anne M. Calub, Acting General Secretary, National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
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