Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good God! (Part 2)

I found myself still wondering this morning about why we seem to feel "safer" focusing more on God's justice than on his goodness. I even brought the matter to my morning meditation. And it because clear very, very quickly: "Justice" has the advantage of being clear and compact--especially when it is a "justice of our own based on law" (which St. Paul lost so much ink discussing). In a justice-relationship, we know what our obligations are; we know "how far" we can go and still remain irreproachable. It doesn't really require that much of us, as long as we stay within the bounds of the law.
Goodness, on the other hand, makes no specific demands of us. Goodness calls for a response of love that gives over everything. If we focus too much on God's goodness, we risk being captivated. We might do crazy things like go, sell what we have, give to the poor, leave all things (in some form or other). You don't know where you could end up. It could seriously mess up our plans and priorities.
Justice keeps things on the level of a transaction. Goodness brings you into a relationship.
The saints knew this, of course. Funny thing: by focusing on justice, we run the risk of having a grim, hard, unyielding attitude, whereas the Saints, who certainly knew God's justice but whose writings tend to emphasize his goodness, were anything but hard and grim (with the possible exception of St. Jerome).
We do god an injustice by focusing more intently on his justice (humanly understood) than on contemplating and praising his goodness. As we say at Mass, "it is right to give him thanks and praise." ("Dignum et iustum est.")


a_inkwell said...

This really struck me as I read a recent post on my sister's blog about an event that transpired at a Catholic University often we get caught up in the justice that we forget the dire need for love that swirls around such situations.

For the blog entry go to:

I really appreciate your thoughtful reflection on this topic.

xaipe said...

A conversation last week on a CTA train kind of had the same theme: some of the people who write the most about justice and peace seem...awfully angry. What kind of message are we sending?

Fred said...

I used some information from this entry and the one on the Catholic radio commentator, plus one of my favorites "cybermagic" trying to manipulate God with prayer...send to five people and something good will happen...send to 11 and something better in my homily for today. This is both idolatry and a pagan approach to get God's favor.

God loves us simply because it is his nature to do so and he made us lovable. It is all gift!

Thank you for posting warnings against such stuff and nonsense...God will still love us even if we don't send those chain letters to all the people on our mailing certain of that...and Jesus has conquered death, for all certain of that, too.

Do not be afraid...
Father Fred, CMF

Anonymous said...

Dear Sr. Anne,
I discovered your blog through David Miller's interview with you at I am not Catholic but I think a lot about my relationship to Christianity, and you have summarized very succinctly one of the tensions I, and many of my disenchanted friends, struggle with. It has seemed to me that one can subscribe to Christian principles with an eye toward getting into Heaven; or one can try to follow Jesus. Surely the latter will accomplish the former, but I think most people prefer the former. It seems to me that it is much harder to love and to serve than it is to follow rules that enable one to feel destined for eternal reward.

Thank you also for your sharing your thoughts re: the environment! I have often imagined God asking us "How did you care for the earth, which I gave you to steward? How did you protect what could not protect itself from you (although the fires in SoCal do give one pause...)?"

Warmest regards, Jo (California)