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God’s infinite justice

God’s infinite justice

There’s a little phrase the crops up in this Sunday’s psalm (66): Let the nations be glad and exult, for you rule the world with justice.   We know that God is both infinitely merciful and infinitely just, but do we not sometimes find ourselves wishing that He’d forget the justice bit and concentrate more on the mercy?  The thought of God’s justice can leave us trembling in our boots.

In The Snakebite Letters*, Snakebite advises his nephew Braintwister to ensure that his charges think only of God’s mercy before they sin, and only of God’s justice afterwards.  That, he guarantees, will ensure that the poor humans are rash and unthinking in their actions and then, having sinned, they will be too afraid to seek God’s mercy and forgiveness.  There is a balance, of course, to be struck.  We have so often considered the mercy of God (for example here and here), so to help us ensure a proper balance, let’s reflect a little now on God’s justice.

In the encyclical Spe Salvi Benedict XVI puts forward a vision of judgement and justice that is both hopeful and helpful.  Here’s what he writes about God’s justice:

‘The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).’ (Spe salvi 47)

With the Holy Spirit as our advocate in this life (as we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel) and Jesus as our advocate in the next, then surely we can view God’s justice as something to be glad about?  As the psalmist goes on to say,

The earth has yielded its fruit
For God, our God, has blessed us.
May God still give us his blessing
Till the ends of the earth revere him.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
Let all the peoples praise you.    

Even if we endure injustice in this life, we know that we will be judged with both mercy and justice in the next, so let us be careful to work out our salvation, yes ‘with fear and trembling’ but above all with hope.

*like CS Lewis’ Screwtape Letters in style, it contains letters from Snakebite, to his nephew Braintwister.  This version was written by Peter Kreeft in 1993

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