When there is a crisis, religion is asked, “What shall we do?” and for most challenges the answer comes in the words of today’s haftarah (Micah 6:8):
It has been told you, O man, what is good,
And what the Lord requires of you:
To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly
with your God.
Justice, mercy, humility – each speaks to a world afflicted by tragedy and crisis.
Justice. We ask, is it fair or just, that people should suffer? It’s the oldest and deepest philosophical question. But today’s challenge is not so much philosophical as moral and human.
Justice insists that we are fair to ourselves and do not wittingly place our lives at risk. Justice insists that we are fair to others and do not even unwittingly expose them to danger. Justice insists that if someone is suffering, we move heaven and earth to help them.
Mercy, compassion, fellow-feeling – that’s the second word of the prophet. Its message is that whoever is suffering, their suffering is not merely physical. The pain in the body may not be as great as the pain in the heart. “Because I am suffering, does that mean you don’t, won’t, or can’t any longer love me?” is the question.
The story is told of two friends who professed love and brotherhood, one to the other.
Said the one: “Do you love me?” “Of course I do”, came the answer. “Then where do I hurt?” “How do I know where you hurt?” “You don’t know where I hurt? If you truly loved me, you’d feel my pain”… That’s what mercy is.
And humility? Humility is not preaching at people from a high pulpit, but being with people where they are.
Humility is asking whether there was anything which we, our society, our science or our government might have done to make things better for others, when we were all too busy seeking status or self-satisfaction.
Humility is never losing faith in God, in other people, in oneself. Humility is being able to pray, and through prayer to have more hope.
There is a saying, “Leave a little to God”. To leave everything to God is to abdicate responsibility. To leave nothing to God is to be cosmically conceited and unable to see your limitations. Humility says, do all you can and don’t be wanting in your efforts – but have faith that there is a God who will do His part too.