In today’s reading from Isaiah the word “justice” is used three times. What does the word mean? Often when we hear the word “justice” it’s in connection with some crime. We sometimes hear people call for “justice” when what they’re actually seeking is “revenge.”
When we hear the word “justice,” what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s the courtroom scenes we see on television. But television isn’t reality, even if they are called “reality shows,” so that doesn’t work. Maybe it’s “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.”
As I write this column, bomb-sniffing dogs have been brought in in preparation for the New Year’s Eve festivities in New York’s Times Square; the Transportation Security Administration continues to seek improved airport screening techniques; legal and illegal immigrants continue to risk their lives in search of a better life; presidential candidates continue to appear in the media sharing how they plan to improve the justice process and people continue to seek justice.
But maybe we’re looking in the wrong places. Maybe we should be looking at those who seek justice through working with the Red Cross, Catholic Charities, the Salvation Army and other agencies, secular and religious, helping people who have lost jobs or homes due to fire, flood or economic circumstances beyond their control; 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 should listen to those people who invite us to take off our blindfolds and balance scales weighed 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.” The fact is we are ALL God’s beloved 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 longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.