Mercy without justice is cheap grace. But justice without mercy is condemnation. For there to be Gospel, mercy and justice must come together. For Pope Francis, that union is described in Psalm 51: 11-16.
Redemption must occur, otherwise we remain in our sin. But such redemption must not be destructive, otherwise we end up delivered but dead. The redemption David describes in Psalm 51 results in joy, singing, and praise. David envisions a time when his redemption is so complete that he will be a teacher of God’s ways.
This is what we today call restorative justice, and it stands in stark contrast to retributive justice. Retributive justice is punitive; restorative justice is purifying. Retributive justice puts us in prison; restorative justice puts us on our feet.
Mercy and justice meet in the human heart, where deepest regret is overcome by amazing grace. When mercy and justice combine, the keynote is not jail–the keynote is joy. Mercy and justice do not denigrate people–mercy and justice dignify people. Forgiveness is the focus, not failure. “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”