Justice

12 November 2007 Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 1, 1-7; Psalm 139; Luke 17, 1-6

The readings today teaches us a way to the Lord: the responsorial psalm is a supplication asking God to guide us along the everlasting way.

Today I would like to avoid what many people say when asked: Why should we be just? Many people automatically respond, “Because it is God’s commandment.” If deception is wrong only because it is God’s command, then, it denies our assent to it also — this is left out: do you think deception is wrong too? It leaves out a mutual agreement: that we also agree, because we find justice reasonable.

The first reading says, “Love justice; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart.”

The Christian faith is more than just a series of laws and commandments. The very reason why justice is upheld is illustrated in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom. Justice is not just a whim of God: it is God’s nature, it naturally flows from who He is. Goodness is the very nature of God and is necessarily expressed in his commands. Love is the very nature of God, and thus is necessarily articulated in his commandment of love.

Second, to seek justice is to look for it in the ‘integrity of [our] heart’. To probe our very depths. As Psalm 139 suggests: to discover God in the innermost corners of our lives. To understand justice is to discover the source and basis of justice, so that we can account for its great importance in our lives. To understand justice in the integrity of our heart therefore is to honest, to find the very truth of our selves: to discover our very nature. If our nature is being God’s children, made in God’s likeness and image, then our nature is just and good like God who is just and good. Thus, we act justly and lovingly because it is who we are. Not like robots following a program of commands. Our laws, our religion, our principles codify our understanding of our nature.

The Gospel then tells us how to act justly. When we discover our true nature, then we act according to it, so that others may also act accordingly. This is called, ‘witnessing to the truth.’ The proper responses to wrong doing called, retributive justice, is illustrated in the Gospel.

First, the witness of edification. We are responsible for others. Justice involves our interrelationships. We are responsible for others too: we help them act according to our nature. Thus, we do not cause others to sin. And if others sin, we reprimand them because sin prevents justice to naturally flow from our nature.

Finally, the witness of forgiveness. The acknowledgment of one’s failure to love has forgiveness as its appropriate response. In forgiveness, one manifests not only the justice of God, but also His all-embracing love. In forgiveness, we witness what is proper to human beings. The ancient Greeks, especially Plato in his Republic, believed that justice is a proper harmonious relationship between the warring parts of the person or persons in society. They also believed that justice is a virtue and thus is appropriate to persons. We, Christians, agree with them.

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