When people wonder what Pope Francis means when he talks about mercy — and about walking with someone on a journey, and about meeting people where they are — and when they ask, “but what about justice, huh?” You can direct them to this story of a Judge who went to jail with the man he sentenced:
While [gt. Joseph] Serna’s years in combat earned him three Purple Hearts and other military accolades, like many combat vets, he’s been unable to leave the battlefield behind him. Since returning to the U.S., the decorated Green Beret has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and been charged with driving under the influence. Serna has fought to stay sober, appearing before Olivera 25 times to have his progress reviewed. He confessed to Olivera that he lied about a recent urine test last week, according to WRAL. In response, Olivera sentenced Serna to one day in jail. The judge drove Serna to the jail in a neighboring county. “When Joe first came to turn himself in, he was trembling,” Olivera told the Fayetteville Observer. “I decided that I’d spend the night serving with him.” “Where are we going, judge?” Serna asked, the Observer’s Bill Kirby Jr., reported Wednesday. “We’re going to turn ourselves in,” the judge said. As Serna sat down on the cot in his cell, WRAL reported, he heard the door rattle open again and saw Olivera standing before him. Olivera sat down beside him. Someone came and locked the door. “This was a one-man cell so we sat on the bunk and I said, ‘You are here for the entire time with me?'” Serna told WTVD. “He said, ‘Yeah that’s what I am doing.'”
Read the whole thing. In this Julibee Year of Mercy, if we aren’t quite getting the message, perhaps we should let this be our model.