Justice – 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C

injustice

The perversion of justice

Central Idea: Loving persons over things. Doctrine: Three forms of justice. Practical Application: Becoming more just.

For Lectionary 135, click here.

Central Idea: Loving persons over things

Reading 1 Am 8:4-7

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy
and destroy the poor of the land!
“When will the new moon be over,” you ask,
“that we may sell our grain,
and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat?
We will diminish the ephah,
add to the shekel,
and fix our scales for cheating!
We will buy the lowly for silver,
and the poor for a pair of sandals;
even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
Never will I forget a thing they have done!

  • The Seventh Commandment is “Thou shalt not steal.” Some steal by cheating. Some take advantage of persons in need. The Old Testament condemns these. God will never forget the injustice of defrauding the poor.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 113:1-2, 4-6, 7-8

R. Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor or R. Alleluia.

Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.

High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?

He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
to seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.

  • The Church has a “preferential option for the poor” (CCC 2448) based on God’s own predilection for them. God is “highest” and around him are “princes,” yet God will exalt the lowliest to his level.

Reading 2 1 Tm 2:1-8

Beloved:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
for kings and for all in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life
in all devotion and dignity.
This is good and pleasing to God our savior,
who wills everyone to be saved
and to come to knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God.
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
This was the testimony at the proper time.
For this I was appointed preacher and apostle
— I am speaking the truth, I am not lying —,
teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

It is my wish, then, that in every place the men should pray,
lifting up holy hands, without anger or argument.

  • Paul seems to be saying that the best environment for evangelization is a peaceful community in which people are left alone both by the authorities and by rabble-rousers and mobs. If we Christians are able to lead quiet and tranquil lives “in all devotion and dignity,” it will be easier for others to come to the knowledge of Christ’s saving truth.
  • To have such an environment, we should publicly pray for everyone in our community, including the civic authorities, regardless of whether they are of the Faith. This we do in the General Intercessions at Mass.

Alleluia Cf. 2 Cor 8:9

Though our Lord Jesus Christ was rich, he became poor,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.

  • If we are rich, we must become “poor” by giving away to others what we have. This includes time, treasure, talents, knowledge, love – whatever we have to offer.
  • If we are poor, we have these riches, that God has a preferential love for us and we are heir to fabulous riches – everything good will be ours if we make it to heaven.

Gospel Lk 16:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples,
“A rich man had a steward
who was reported to him for squandering his property.
He summoned him and said,
‘What is this I hear about you?
Prepare a full account of your stewardship,
because you can no longer be my steward.’
The steward said to himself, ‘What shall I do,
now that my master is taking the position of steward away from me?
I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg.
I know what I shall do so that,
when I am removed from the stewardship,
they may welcome me into their homes.’
He called in his master’s debtors one by one.
To the first he said,
‘How much do you owe my master?’
He replied, ‘One hundred measures of olive oil.’
He said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note.
Sit down and quickly write one for fifty.’
Then to another the steward said, ‘And you, how much do you owe?’
He replied, ‘One hundred kors of wheat.’
The steward said to him, ‘Here is your promissory note;
write one for eighty.’
And the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently.
“For the children of this world
are more prudent in dealing with their own generation
than are the children of light.
I tell you, make friends for yourselves with dishonest wealth,
so that when it fails, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
The person who is trustworthy in very small matters
is also trustworthy in great ones;
and the person who is dishonest in very small matters
is also dishonest in great ones.
If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth,
who will trust you with true wealth?
If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another,
who will give you what is yours?
No servant can serve two masters.
He will either hate one and love the other,
or be devoted to one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and mammon.”

  • We want security so as to be free from worry.
  • But follower of Christ or not, every human being faces the same problem. Can we ever have enough so that we never need fear going without and can we ever be so secure that no danger can touch us?
  • There are only two sources of security for most of us. It is either God or wealth. Which one will we be devoted to?
  • The “children of this world” are those whose master is money, and they are clever in gaining and keeping wealth, like the unjust steward. The “children of light” are those whose master is God. We should be equally clever in gaining and keeping God.
  • Our Lord tells us that we can achieve this goal of gaining and keeping God by using our wealth wisely: “Make friends with yourselves with dishonest wealth.” In other words, use whatever worldly goods you have honestly and in service. Those merchants Amos condemned were the exact opposite of this. They were self-serving cheats.
  • When it comes to gaining or using wealth, if our parents, or spouse, or children, or friends, or employer, or country want us to do something contrary to the will of God, we must “hate” that thing they want and “love” what God wants.
  • We must subordinate worldly goods to the will of God, which ultimately means giving them all away.

Doctrine: Three forms of justice

  • Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor” (CCC 1807). Justice is when we give persons what we owe A society is just when everyone gives and receives what is owed.
  • “Justice toward God is called the ‘virtue of religion’”(CCC 1807). Because of who God is and what he has done and can do for us, we owe him thanksgiving for blessings received, sorrow for our sins, adoration for his goodness and greatness, and petition for all needs.
  • There are three kinds of human justice, each of which is required.
  • Commutative justice refers to the strict obligations that exist between individual persons. For example, when you get a job, you agree to do a certain kind of work and your employer agrees to pay you a certain wage. “Commutative justice . . . requires safeguarding property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely contracted” (CCC 2411).
  • Legal justice “concerns what the citizen owes in fairness to the community” (CCC 2411). In our day, legal justice is usually spelled out in legal codes, like criminal law.
  • Distributive justice “regulates what the community owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs” (CCC 2411). For example, a society owes protection to its vulnerable members.

Practical Application: Becoming more just

  • “The just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor” (CCC 1807).
  • Because of original sin, we want to seek our own advantage to gain pleasure, or status, or security, or wealth. A short cut to advantage seems to be injustice. But “right thinking” means to see things the way God does, which begins with recognizing what we owe to others.
  • With the help of grace, we can grow in the virtue of justice by reforming our thinking and conduct.
  • We can begin by looking at our relationships with other persons and asking if we are giving them what we owe them or if we are being unjust in some way.
  • Here are some questions we can ask ourselves in the presence of God:
    • Am I giving the most important person, God, what I owe him? Do I thank him; say sorry when I do wrong or see the wrong others have done; worship him; and ask him for my needs and the needs of others? Do I obey the precepts of his Church? Do I pray for those in authority?
    • Am I giving my parents what I owe them? What about my spouse? My children? My employer or employees? My friends and neighbors?
    • Do I obey the just laws of my city, state, and nation?
    • Do I oppose injustice directed toward myself and my neighbor? Do I refuse to cooperate with unjust laws and actions?
    • Do I work toward greater justice in my community, especially when it comes to those most vulnerable?
  • Every one of us is vulnerable to the inclination to act unjustly toward God and neighbor. What a good thing it would be to identify even one unjust practice of ours and to reform our behavior with God’s help. There would be rejoicing in heaven if we did this.

The Homiletic Directory makes the following suggestions for this set of readings:

  • CCC 2407-2414: respect for the property of others
  • CCC 2443-2449: love for the poor
  • CCC 2635: pray for others’ interest, not just for one’s own
  • CCC 65-67, 480, 667: Christ our one Mediator
  • CCC 2113, 2424, 2848: no one can serve two masters
  • CCC 1900, 2636: intercession for rulers
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