The cardinal virtue of Justice is defined in the catechism as giving what is due to God and Neighbor. God remains perfect regardless of our actions, we can neither add to God’s perfection nor detract from it, so what is it that justice demands from us?
The first reading today from Daniel, underscores the results of what we do to ourselves and our community because we do not follow God’s command for Justice. When we reject God’s prophets, those who teach us the truth, when we lack compassion for our neighbors, when we refuse to forgive, not just in big things but in little things, we create hostility and division. Little acts of injustice tear at the fabric of our community and rip us apart. One of my favorite examples, because I am prone to anger at my fellow drivers, is to question how do I use my horn and high beams? Do I use them as warnings of impending danger on the road ahead, or as a show of displeasure that they did something I was unhappy with? A warning may bring thanks from another driver or pedestrian, while a display of our wrath brings only rage and feelings of retaliation from others. Which of these uses is a form of justice to those who we share the road with?
In our responsorial Psalm, we beg God not to deal with us as we deserve, but in His justice, show mercy to us. And that is what God asks from us as well.
Jesus helps us in today’s Gospel, to understand Justice and mercy. Ephrem of Syria – a ancient Christian commentator sums the gospel up well “Forgive, and it will be forgiven you. For once someone has judged in accordance with justice, he should forgive in accordance with grace, so that when he himself is judged in accordance with justice, he may be worthy of forgiveness through grace.”
Let’s examine our intentions and whether we act with vengeance or with the true justice that we ourselves ask for from God.