“God, is justice in essence.” St. Vincent Pallotti
by Cindy Costello, executive director
A friend of mine is a public defender and we will sometimes discuss what is happening in her professional universe. Usually these conversations are long as I metaphorically don my houndstooth cap and pepper her with questions gleaned from watching Law & Order reruns. For the most part I am stunned by how the legal system works and am grateful that my closest encounters with it come from these discussions and television.
After a week of strife and violence here in St. Louis, I have been wondering if justice will be served and what guise it could possibly take. Typically when we think about justice someone wins, someone loses. So far I am seeing mostly losers here. The families, the businesses, the employees, the larger community–the only winners catching my eye are the news media outlets and those people seeking their 15 minutes of fame.
St. Vincent Pallotti said, “God, is justice in essence.” Obviously we are not going to be able to reach that level of justice in this, or any circumstance, but it does help to remind us that since we are created in God’s image we should strive for justice: not retribution, vindication or “winning” the battle.
So, what is justice? Well, synonyms are truth, integrity, honesty, fairness, but let’s be serious–all of these words also come in shades of gray. One person’s truth is another person’s fudging. St. Vincent frequently spoke of being in “right relationship” with God and one another. What does right relationship look like? It is when we follow the golden rule of treating others how we would wish to be treated. Or, as the Bible tells us, to love our neighbor. It is based on dignity and respect; not race, skin color, gender or sexual orientation. It is about offering constructive help not taking what is not ours to take.
I understand the desire to protest, to be heard, to want to change the world for ourselves and future generations. But true change does not happen in a day. It takes a long time, many seeds must be planted and many people must productively work toward it. If we act in love and try for right relationships we are probably moving in the right direction of change. The lack of right relationship creates discord and destruction. While change rarely happens overnight, destruction can happen nearly instantaneously and have a long-term impact.
I pray that we follow the bumper stickers that were popular a few years ago: “If you want peace, work for justice.” The process may be long and difficult but the result has a better chance of lasting. And, it will help make all of us whole rather than ripping the dignity and integrity from any person or any group. Maybe that is what right relationship is really about–creating wholeness rather than division, focusing on our similarities and moving forward from there.