REMARKS TO THE SYMPOSIUM "RESPONSIBILITY, REHABILITATION AND RESTORATION: A SYMPOSIUM ON CRIME, PUNISHMENT AND THE COMMON GOOD IN CALIFORNIA

Writing ·Luke 15:11-32, Luke 11:42-
By Archbishop Gomez
August 03, 2012

My friends,

We have just heard a beautiful parable for us to reflect on in the context of your program for this weekend.

The prodigal son is the story of every life. In a way, this parable is a summary of the entire Gospel.

We are all sinners who must rely on the mercy of God. We have all squandered the beautiful inheritance that our Father has given us as his children. In justice, we are all deserving of punishment for our sins. And yet our Father’s mercy is wide. He will forgive our every trespass — so long as they are truly sorry and committed to changing their lives.

This is the beautiful reality of God.

But men and women are not God. And for us, justice and mercy remain the hardest qualities to balance when we are trying to deal with those who break our society’s laws.

Punishment should defend the public order and restore harmony in the social relationships disrupted by the criminal act. But our punishments must also be “medicinal.” Our punishments must contribute to the moral correction and education of offenders and their “re-insertion” into society.

So as you begin your important work this weekend, let me offer you these reflections from our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:

“Justice and mercy … are two different realities only for the human person. … For us ‘just’ means ‘what is due to the other,’ while ‘merciful’ is what is given out of kindness. One seems to exclude the other. Yet for God it is not like this. … [For him], there is no just action that is not also an act of mercy and pardon. And at the same time, there is no merciful action that is not perfectly just.

“How far God’s logic is from our own! And how different is his way of acting from ours! The Lord invites us to understand and observe the true spirit of the law to give it total fulfillment in love for those in need. ‘Love … is the fulfilling of the law,’ St. Paul wrote. Our justice will be all the more perfect the more motivated it is by love for God and for our brethren.”

I ask God’s blessings on all your conversations and programs this weekend, my friends.

And I ask that our Our Blessed Mother, the Mother of Mercy, be with you as you strive to build a society that reflects the justice and love of her Son and our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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