Will He Find Justice?

last-judgment

When the Son of Man comes, will He find justice on earth? Will he find the virtuous fairly rewarded and criminals punished proportionately for their crimes? Will He find the world’s goods equitably distributed among honest people living in harmony? Will He find people communicating discreetly, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, working out their problems gently, helping each other generously, rising above petty antagonisms with serene mutual respect? Will He find all this when He comes again? [Spanish]

The persistent widow in the parable sought justice. She had a legal claim. She had a case against someone who had cheated her.

scales_of_justiceThe judge owed her a hearing. He owed her an investigation into the facts. He owed her his labor as an agent of justice. Why, after all, would we have judges in the first place, if they don’t hold hearings, investigate facts, apply laws, and render just verdicts?

But this judge would not. He wasn’t ashamed to admit to himself that he had no principles. Maybe a powerful friend appointed him a judge as a personal favor, even though he had no intention whatsoever of fulfilling his duties. Or maybe he had grown slothful over a long career of frustrating failure. Maybe he started out as an enterprising young idealist. But year after year, he heard witnesses lie. Year after year, he tried to apply laws fairly, only to have the politicians change the laws for the benefit of cronies. Maybe, year after year, real justice eluded his grasp. So he gave up. Maybe that’s what happened.

Either way–either from the beginning, or after much disappointment—this judge had grown lazy, lazy to the bone.

So the dramatic confrontation ensued. The widow presents her claim. The judge ignores her suit. She grows angry. He ignores her some more. She seethes with righteous indignation. She brandishes her walker. ‘Your Honor, either you hold a hearing, as the law requires, or I will give you two black eyes, so help me God.’

Jaded and cynical and checked-out as he is, the judge knows that the widow has a right to be angry. He knows that people should not defraud widows, and if they do, they should have to answer for it. The judge hardly believes in justice on earth anymore—if he ever did—but he knows that man’s desire for justice, man’s desire for truth—he knows that these desires will never vanish from the human soul. So he has to do something for this widow, or she will break one of his kneecaps with her cane.

Frankfurt School Adorno Horkheimer
Frankfurt Schoolers Horkheimer and Adorno

One school of 20th-century agnosticism held that you couldn’t believe in God, because there’s too much injustice on earth. What kind of God would allow it? But, on the other hand, the same school of thought also held that you couldn’t reject the existence of God, either. Because if you did, you would try to establish perfect justice by human means alone. And trying to do that, history has shown, only makes things worse. The most cold-blooded murderer is the atheist bent on establishing the perfect human society.

The answer to this righteous agnosticism is our faith in Christ’s Final Judgment. We do not believe in some vague god who ignores all the injustice on earth. We believe in Christ crucified, crucified for the sins of mankind. And we believe that He—the crucified Christ, the truly innocent and righteous One Who suffered for us—we believe that He will come again and set everything to rights.

To quote Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on Christian hope:

This innocent sufferer [Jesus Christ] has attained the certitude of hope: there is a God, and God can create justice in a way that we cannot conceive. There is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an ‘undoing’ of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgment is first and foremost hope.

The question of justice constitutes the strongest argument in favor of faith in eternal life. In connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word, the necessity for Christ’s return becomes fully convincing.

If Christ is not coming again, then when will our desire for justice get satisfied? When will all the wrongs get righted? And if He will not come, then why bother trying to do right in the meantime? If Christ does not bring justice, then no one ever will, because our human attempts always fall short.

But He is coming again. That’s not really in question. The question is: When He comes, will He find us praying and hoping, longing for justice, like the widow who never gave up?

The Unjust Judge and the Second Coming

Frankfurt Schoolers Horkheimer and Adorno
Frankfurt Schoolers Horkheimer and Adorno

When the Son of Man comes, will He find justice on earth?

Whether or not He will find faith on earth (cf. Luke 18:8), only time will tell. But will He find justice on earth?

Will he find the virtuous fairly rewarded and criminals punished proportionately for their crimes? Will He find the world’s goods equitably distributed among honest people living in harmony, with a care for the vulnerable and reverence for the wise? Will He find people communicating discreetly, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, working out their problems gently, helping each other generously, rising above petty antagonisms with serene mutual respect? Will He find all this when He comes again?

Continue reading “The Unjust Judge and the Second Coming”

Zechariah and the Widow: Justice!

Tomb of Zechariah, son of Jehoida, in the Kidron Valley
Tomb of Zechariah, son of Jehoida, in the Kidron Valley

Today’s gospel reading at Holy Mass offers us a good warm-up for Sunday’s gospel. Today we hear the Lord Jesus refer to

Zechariah, who died between the altar and the temple building.

Let’s clarify a couple things: First, apparently the altar for animal sacrifice stood outside the original Temple of Solomon. The burning flesh of the lambs and other animals rose from the courtyard up to the heavens.

Second, of which Zechariah does the Lord speak here? How many Zechariahs appear in the Holy Scriptures? 1. Zechariah, father of ________. John the Baptist! 2. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, who prophesied when the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon. And 3. Zechariah, son of Jehoida, who lived 2 ½ centuries before that.

Temple aromaZechariah, son of Jehoida, condemned the people of Jerusalem for worshiping pagan idols. He warned the people that the Lord had abandoned them—because they had abandoned the Lord. Instead of listening to his righteous warnings, they stoned him to death in the temple courtyard.

Now, the connection with Sunday’s gospel reading is this: When Zechariah lay dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge.”

We can see why Zechariah would have said that. Here he was, a faithful teacher of the Law of Moses, defending the honor of God in the Lord’s own Temple—and he meets a cruel death at the hands of bad people solely because he was trying to open the door to God for them. So he prayed that the world would not descend into total meaningless chaos, but rather that the Lord act to restore justice.

This sounds like the widow we will hear about in Jesus’ parable on Sunday, the widow who pleads insistently to the judge: “Render a just decision for me against my adversary!”

We live in the great age of mercy, when all sins can be forgiven because of the blood Christ shed for us. Injustice still holds sway on earth; mercy reigns above. The mercy of God gives us hope for ourselves, in spite of all our own injustices.

But what also gives us hope is the truth that moved the praying hearts of Zechariah and the widow in the parable. The reign of injustice on earth will end. God waits for the repentance of all He has chosen. Then justice will be done. All wrongs will be righted. The meaningless chaos of a world that kills the gentle messengers of God—it will be transformed by the divine Judge into a kingdom of true and eternal peace.