By Brian Niemiec
I write this reflection from the Archdiocese of Chicago, where Bishop Blase Cupich has just been named as Cardinal George’s successor. As I was reading news articles this morning about the life and ministry of this Bishop from Spokane, I started thinking that this man’s life very much reflects the readings for this Sunday.
In the Gospel parable, we see a balance between justice and mercy. The landowner promises the workers the standard daily wage, but as the day goes on and more filter in to work, they too receive the standard wage. When the original workers get angry at this arrangement, the landowner rebukes them and reminds them that they are being paid justly according to what was decided in the morning.
Mercy enters the scene when the laborers that arrived later also received the same wage. They were late to the party, but still received the generosity and hospitality of the host. We see this mercy and compassion in our own Christian communities. The gift of eternal life is offered to all, not just the cradle Catholics who have gone to mass and lived out their faith their entire life. Salvation is also offered to the convert, the estranged family member, the criminal, the outcast, and all the rest that do not fit into our box of what real Catholic should be.
This balance of justice and mercy is crucial to the Christian life because it has the power to both speak truth and do it in a way that invites others into dialogue and conversation, so that healing and reconciliation may occur. This is the tactic Bishop Cupich has taken on many social issues that challenge the Church today. With healthcare, he rejected the governments mandate for contraception coverage, but called for dialogue and collaboration between church and state rather than advance a nuclear option that would close hospitals and schools leaving many jobless, and countless more without the basic resources of life.
If these two ideas of justice and mercy seem like strange bedfellows, the first reading reminds us that “my thoughts are not your thoughts nor are your ways my ways, says The Lord.” God sometimes acts strangely to us, but it is a reminder that we are not God. This week, we are challenged to ask ourselves, “what are God’s ways?” How do we act out this balance of justice and mercy in the day to day? How do we walk in God’s footsteps of justice and mercy? With Bishop Cupich now tapped to lead one of the American Church’s most high profile diocese, perhaps his witness could be one example.