Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time
(I Kings 21:17-29; Matthew 5:43-48)
“It’s not fair,” we may protest, “King Ahab deserves to be exiled for killing Naboth, not exonerated for robing himself in sackcloth.” God’s mercy always seems to come after and trump His justice. But surely we see things backwards here. God always intends to bring about justice by showing mercy. As long as we show contrition for our sins, God will forgive us. But God’s mercy must not be taken for granted as if we may plot the resumption of a sinful act. Contrition presupposes the will not to sin again.
The child’s dilemma challenges this perspective. A child comes to Confession forever with the same sins – disobeying her parents or fighting with his brother, among other peccadilloes. Are these sins then forgiven? Or, perhaps, they are not sins in the first place? Of course, typically they do not comprise what we know as mortal sins, but nevertheless they should be fairly considered and dutifully given penance. Taken seriously, the girl here will grow in consciousness to realize the benefit of her parents’ judgment and the possibility of following it. Likewise, the boy will become aware of his brother's and, indeed, every human being’s dignity and not abuse it.