Thursday, June 22, 2006

Justice and Mercy

Today we remember, among others, St. Thomas More, martyred along with St. John Fisher by king Henry VIII in 1535 and canonized in the Church 400 years later. That's a long time to wait for justice to be done, but presumably in St. Thomas More's case the justice he received in 1535 at the hands of a bloody tyrant was more than balanced by the divine justice meted out to him in heaven at the hands of Our Lord, whose mercy and compassion we celebrate in a special way tomorrow.

One of my favorite readings from the Office is an optional reading for this day, taken from a letter that purports to be from St. Thomas More to his daughter Margaret (though it may actually have been written by Margaret herself from notes she had made of conversations with her father while in prison):
If her permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.
It is, perhaps, only a saint who can take comfort in the thought that even his own deserved mortal damnation is in some sense a good thing, since it is a manifestation of God's own justice. But at the same time the saint recognizes that God will look kindly on a humble and contrite heart, and mercy will conquer justice.

Tomorrow we remember St. Thomas Garnet, another Recusant Catholic martyred during the bloody years of the persection of Catholics in England. Fr. Garnet was falsely accused of complicity in the "Powder Treason", or Gunpowder Plot, that was used as an excuse for unprecedented persecution of Catholics in the century that followed. For three hundred years Catholics had to endure the hatred of their countrymen, but they continued to put their trust in God, and to believe that nothing that harms the mortal body in this world can affect the condition of one's immortal soul, a lesson that St. Thomas More had learned well (from Plato!--see his dialogue Phaedo, which appears to have been a source for the letter from which I quoted above).

It's a valuable lesson for all of us, actually, especially in these debauched times in which we live. Live justly, judge never, forgive ever, and you will be shown mercy and justice.

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

Good post, actually. Today on the bus, the driver had a sign that read, ¨May you be blessed with double of whatever you give me.¨

I thought it was appropriate.

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