In hearing the gospel today I got to thinking about the recent Synod on the family. I always seek to avoid the extremes that such events in the Church might bring. Much was made of cardinals and bishops arguing with one another. It can be easy to get caught up on a context that these arguments are really no different than the political arguments we are subjected to, especially during these days just before the election.
The biggest reason I avoid the coverage, or at least take it with a large grain of salt is that the media often does not have the understanding to present an event such as a Synod. The only way they know to present such an issue is in the political model they so often discuss.
What that means is that in practice is that events like the Synod are covered like political conventions, with “conservatives” and “liberals”. A political convention has “winners” and “losers”.
But in the Church, such discussions are really about seeking what is right, good and true. It means seeking that expression to today’s modern day problems that is about applying what Jesus tells us to say, to present the gospel in a way it can be heard today.
I might be too simplistic, but it seems to me that what we saw during the Synod was not a lot of fundamental division (though others might argue differently) but rather the challenge of understanding the relationship between justice and mercy.
In God, of course, these are never in conflict, since God is the author of truth. The Synod offered us a picture of what has been recently only occurring behind the scenes. And what we saw was the struggle to hold together the proper understanding, as best as humans can understand such things, the proper understanding of mercy and justice.
In today’s gospel we see such an example in the struggle. Are humans to be healed on the Sabbath? The law could be applied in such a way that even life giving healings could be prevented. But as Jesus rightly points out, even those who are most observant respond with compassion when animals are in need.
It seems to me that while playing up the arguments made for good press, what we are likely to see in the final document will be a focus on the tremendous challenges families face today. Marriages fail. Couples “play” marriage by living together. Poverty causes parents to work often at the expense of spending time with their children. This situation is even harder when children are raised by only one parent. There are children, because of war, or poverty, or natural disaster that must make the difficult choice to risk their own lives as refugees or to face certain death in their current circumstances.
We, as all human beings, are the recipients of God’s great mercy. Perhaps at no time before (though there needs to be humility in assessing one’s own age) the mercy of God is needed. The work to cooperate with God’s grace to bring about the justice of God is for each of us. Sometimes standing for justice means making tough decisions that seem on the surface to be uncaring.
Again and again it appears to me that Jesus reminds us that if we wish to receive God’s mercy, then we too must be merciful. It seems that such is the lesson of the Gospel. As we pray each day at Mass, “forgive us our tresspasses as we forgive those who tresspass against us.”