No Justice Without Mercy: A Reflection for the Third Sunday of Lent

March 20, 2022 | Helen OsmanToday’s Readings

“I may not be Moses, but I am a member of a human family called to answer God’s invitation to walk with him in justice and mercy.”

This Sunday’s Scripture suggests that justice and mercy are two sides of the same coin.

God offers justice to the Israelites. He tells Moses how they will be liberated from oppression, freed from slavery.

Moses knows his folks well, though. They’re going to have a hard time with this message, he thinks to himself. They’re going to want proof of identity from this God-Liberator. They’ve been making bricks for Pharaoh for a long, long time. Why would their God step in now, suddenly, to bring them justice? 

So Moses asks God, “How can I prove to them this is not just Moses hallucinating from too much burning bush smoke? What makes your promise authentic?”

God responds with mercy: “Tell them this is not a capricious or authoritarian God who intends to toy with them. This comes from a God named ‘I AM.’ This is a God who is for you, who hears you now, at this moment. Who has been and will be faithful across generations.”

Indeed, this is a God for all of creation, all of humanity. He doesn’t want to just deliver Moses from slavery. He wants “all y’all,” as we say in Texas.

Across the centuries, God remains faithful. Humans, not so much. We are keen on meting out justice without the mercy. The death penalty is one of most violent examples of how we attempt justice without mercy.

But I’m no Moses. I haven’t had any burning bushes give me clear direction. What can I do?

Plenty, the Scriptures tell me. It took more than just Moses delivering a message for the Israelites to take up God’s offer of freedom. It required a whole tribe to pack up and walk out of Egypt.

I may not be Moses, but I am a member of a human family called to answer God’s invitation to walk with him in justice and mercy. 

How many people writing governors and boards of pardons and paroles will it take to release the captives on death row? How many people sitting in places where they are forbidden will it take to stop oppression? How many protesters being arrested will it take to stop a war?

I don’t have an exact answer, except this: More than what we have right now. Each and every one of us has a role.

May we repent this Lent, remembering “I AM” has sent each one of us to bring the kingdom of heaven, here and now.