One of my favorite expressions lately is one that I encountered as a meme – though not a very popular one – on Facebook:
“You say life isn’t fair? Good for you that it isn’t; you’d be a lot worse off if it was.”
For most of us this is a true statement. Most people reading this humble reflection will have available more freedoms, more economic opportunities, and more access to the necessities of life than the average citizen of earth.
Yet there are times where we humans must enter into lament, for ourselves, for those we love, or for the world. Whether that prayer says something about our daily lives (Why do I have so much homework tonight?), our families and our friends (Why can’t I go to the movies with everyone else?) or the world as a whole (Why are there so many people going to bed hungry tonight?), much of the time, our laments start with the word “Why.” It’s not enough for us merely to point out to God the things we perceive as wrong; our human condition leads us to ask why they are wrong as well.
Whether it’s little things like homework and social gatherings, or larger issues like hunger and even death, we want God to answer “Why?” We want to know. This has been part of our life since the snake’s temptation in the Garden of Eden. There, in the Garden, Adam and Eve trusted their Creator, God, would provide everything they needed: food, shelter, love, companionship — and God did.
And the readings of this Sunday try again to bring us back to that path from the inheritance of sin left to us by Adam and Eve and their disobedience. The reading from Ezekiel reminds us that God is God, as they say, and we ain’t. If we turn away from our sins, though, and do what is right and what is just, we will live.
The Gospel paints for us another picture of how God’s ways are different than ours. God’s way is one where justice meets mercy — a way where sinners can find their way home and where those who only “talk the talk” without “walking the walk” are left behind. We petition the Lord, in the psalm, to “remember your mercies” and to make known to us his paths. We ask that he remember not the sins of our past days but to guide us, if we are humble, to justice.
How can the Lord help us in our pursuit of humility and mercy? God himself humbled himself, St. Paul tells us, to the point of becoming human, the form of a slave, and taking upon himself death, even on a cross. This example is one of “humbly regard[ing] others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
Sometimes we might want to cry out, “Life isn’t fair!” In those moments, perhaps we might challenge ourselves to look at the world around us, and see how we might strive to make it more fair for someone else.