Monday, February 22, 2016

Truth and Joy

I was reflecting on this distinction between truth and joy that I brought up in my last post and then I went in a different direction. It made me think of Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Benedict is about truth. Francis is about joy. I tend to find a spirituality based on truth more appealing. Still I am learning more and more about the importance of joy as I go.

There is a related distinction between judgement and mercy. Judgement is based on truth and mercy leads us to joy. Which matters more? It seems me that viewed from that perspective judgement needs to come first and mercy follows. We can't understand God's mercy without God's judgement. This is why the Old Testament has more emphasis on judgement. Once we get that we are sinners then we can understand mercy. Before that we just see God as being morally indifferent. Like a father who threatens punishment but always changes his mind. Children learn the wrong lesson.

This is the appeal of Pope Francis. Not so much that he says such nice things. There are a lot of people with a less stringent morality than him. It is the tone of mercy juxtaposed with the true judgement of the Catholic church. That truth is symbolized by Pope Benedict. Now both judgement and mercy go way back in church history but you get the idea.

If you understand what God is calling us to be through the teaching of the church then you can appreciate when God gives us a break when we don't live it out. When you don't understand the higher purpose God has for us then mercy feels like just getting away with it. It kind of feels good but you are still confused. It feels like you cheated the system.

When mercy becomes truth is when we are asked to extend mercy towards others. That becomes a challenge. What about immigrants. What about those in live for the death penalty. We receive God's mercy. Can we give it? Ultimately the two go together. We either live a life of grace or we live a life of works. Whatever sin you don't forgive in another you will find in yourself. Maybe not precisely the same act but something with parallels so close you will end up judging yourself. Mat 7:2 says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

So at the end of the day we need both. We need God's grace to become better people and we need God's grace to pardon us when we fail at it. We need truth and we need joy. It does seem more natural to pursue truth and let joy come. Maybe that is because I am wired that way.


  1. Randy, thank you for a most excellent site. Here is another website for your consideration [and blogroll if you deem it worthy]. It's called Big C Catholics [as opposed to little c Catholics.] Here's the link: It's run by a seminary buddy of mine. You needn't publish this comment. I leave it as a personal FYI.

  2. Thank you for the kind words. I went to Big C Catholic and read Fr Charles' homily from last Sunday. He is a fine preacher. I will add the site to my blogroll.