“One who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord.” Responsorial Psalm 15
We often talk about justice with words that “feel right” to us—words of balance and proportionality. Tit-for-tat. Insult for injury. But what exactly is the right response to a human failing, including ones we ourselves commit? What will satisfy an injury, if that’s even possible?
Balancing the scales is not what God is about. Rather God’s justice is rooted in mercy and love—in unquantifiable ways. That’s why when we seek justice with God in mind, the strategies we learned as little children can’t work any longer. We need another way to heal from injury and fulfill the law at the same time.
Maybe the best way to practice justice is to build bridges. I am not saying that rules don’t matter because they do. The law was important to the Jewish people and to Jesus as well. But he also gave us the greatest commandment: Love God with all your heart; and love your neighbor as yourself.
In today’s Gospel Jesus says the evils that come from within us—malice, greed, deceit and many more—are what defile us. What enters from above—gifts from the Father and the commandment to love one another—are what bring completeness. We cannot fulfill the commandments while practicing insult for injury. So the bridges to justice that I’m talking about are built with mercy and love. In the face of injustice, always choose love.
Sometimes justice and love are understood as opposites, one extracting harsh judgment, the other excusing a wrong without any consequence. I don’t see it that way. Good and right relationships are fundamentally built on justice. Both justice and love serve the process of restitution—for the victims, the wrongdoers, and the communities where we live. And both are in God’s nature.
Friend, one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favorite bible verses is from the book of Amos 5:24: “Let justice surge like waters, and righteousness like an unfailing stream.” And may reflections of God’s love—the ones you witness—accompany those healing waters.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Raymond J. Finch, M.M.
Prayer for 5th Sunday
God of justice and peace,
mercy and love,
help me keep Your commandments
that I might give You glory and honor
each and every day of my life.
Let me never answer insult or injury
with vengeance or violence
but, giving everything over to You,
may compassion and forgiveness
bring me closer to Your reign.
Lord, when I can neither forgive nor forget
grant that I may nevertheless let my grievance
go so my heart might know healing
and my soul, peace.
Send me the Holy Spirit as
Comforter and Advocate
in my daily struggles to remain
true to my calling to follow You
all the days of my life.
Walk with me, Jesus, along the way
and let me lean on You
when things go wrong.
Help me to reflect Your love
and mercy to all around me
and together with Your people
seek first Your righteousness
that we might discover Your peace.
Prayer by, Father Joseph Veneroso M.M.