We shall be like him (1 Jn 3, 2)
Jesus, righteous and merciful, is the image of the most holy God. Those who see him and become like him see God and become saints.
Jesus goes about doing good and practicing what he preaches. And his motive is not to win people’s admiration. Appearance is not as important to him as what is in the heart.
Hence, there is the clarification, “What comes out of a person, that is what defiles,” and the warning, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them,” and the interiorization, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The Teacher wants us to be like him, meek, humble and clean of heart, without guile—simple, in Vincentian terminology (SV.FR XII:172)—practicing righteousness radically.
The righteousness lived and taught by Jesus surpasses the conventional righteousness of reciprocity that consists in repaying good with good and evil with evil. He commands us, “Offer no resistance to one who is evil; when someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.” He wants us to love even those who hate us so that we may be perfect like our heavenly Father “who makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”
In the way he deals with us, our Father measures up perfectly to his being the unfathomable and overflowing goodness, never hindered by our infidelities even. His mercy, his goodness, as St. Vincent de Paul puts it, “is infinitely greater than our unworthiness and malice” (SV.FR XI:143-144). His grace overflows all the more where sin increases. So then, divine justice is coextensive with divine mercy.
The merciful Son reflects this merciful Father. He does so as he fulfills his mission to bring the Good News to the poor, the captives, the oppressed. Curing every disease and illness, welcoming the poor, identifying with them, becoming sin and a curse to rescue sinners and the accursed, proclaiming blessed those who are wretches in the eyes of the world, Jesus embodies the God whose essence is mercy (SV.FR XI:341, 364).
And finally, after giving his back to those who beat him, his cheeks to those who plucked his beard, after not shielding his face from buffets and spitting, the Suffering Servant gives his body up and sheds his blood for sinners. Thus he gives the best proof of God’s love.
It is incumbent upon the Church, us, as Jesus’ sacrament, to be sealed with righteousness and mercy. “[U]nless we can unite compassion with justice, we will end up being needlessly severe and deeply unjust,” and not saints.
Lord, make us whole.