In today’s reading from Isaiah, the word “justice” is used three times. But what is justice? And what do we think of when we hear the word?
Maybe when we hear someone talking about justice it’s in connection with a crime, and while we hear people calling for justice, what they are actually seeking is revenge. Maybe it is the courtroom scenes we see on television; but television isn’t reality (even if they do call them “reality shows”) so that doesn’t work. Maybe it is “Lady Justice,” a woman holding balance scales, blindfolded so as not to be swayed by appearances; but that doesn’t work either because Isaiah points to someone (Jesus?) who will “… open the eyes of the blind …”
Today, Olympic officials continue in their attempts to bring to justice those responsible for recent bombings in anticipation of the upcoming Winter Olympics; the Transportation Security Administration continues to seek improved airport screening; legal and illegal immigrants continue to risk their lives in search of a better life; and politicians continue to share their plans to improve the justice process. But is this really what Isaiah is talking about?
Maybe we need to look again. Maybe we need to look at those people who seek justice through working with the Red Cross, Catholic Charities and other agencies — secular and religious — helping people who have lost jobs or homes due to fire, flood or economic circumstances beyond their control; or at military men and women who reach across borders to bring food and medical aid to those devastated by war or natural disaster. Maybe we need to listen to those people who invite us to take off our blindfolds and to balance scales weighted down by prejudice and poverty.
At Jesus’ baptism “… a voice came from the heavens saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” But in truth we are ALL God’s children. And as God’s children each one of us is called to be “… a light for the nations.” What does “justice” mean to us? And how are we working to “… establish justice on the earth?”
Van Benthem is a member of the Secular Franciscan Order and a longtime pastoral minister, retreat leader, spiritual director and published writer and poet.