Tag Archives: justice

13 September. Augustine: A Kingdom without Justice is Robbery.


“How like kingdoms without justice are to robberies. Justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies? For what are robberies themselves, but little kingdoms? The band itself is made up of men; it is ruled by the authority of a prince, it is knit together by the pact of the confederacy; the booty is divided by the law agreed on.

“If, by the admittance of abandoned men, this evil increases to such a degree that it holds places, fixes abodes, takes possession of cities, and subdues peoples, it assumes the more plainly the name of a kingdom, because the reality is now manifestly conferred on it, not by the removal of covetousness, but by the addition of impunity.

“Indeed, that was an apt and true reply which was given to Alexander the Great by a pirate who had been seized. For when that king had asked the man what he meant by keeping hostile possession of the sea, he answered with bold pride, “What thou meanest by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, whilst thou who dost it with a great fleet art styled emperor.”

City of God by Saint Augustine via Kindle.

Hundreds of years later, France occupied Augustine’s homeland, which we know as Algeria, to get rid of the Barbary pirates, and less officially, to occupy the fertile land ‘by the addition of impunity’. Brute force. Alexander’s pirate was right to say that the Emperor was another hostile pirate, while the French occupation of Algeria would descend into bloody conflict during the 1960s.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:3.

My kingdom is not of this world. John 18:36.

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6 August: A gift of love and sorrow, VI.

Gate to Jesus Hospital, Canterbury

We have come to the final element in the encounter between the rich young man and Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). It is significant that Jesus, despite – or because of – his love for the young man, does not make an exception for him, does not say, ‘Okay. I like you. I’ll make you a deal. You can keep all your wealth in reserve somewhere. Follow me anyway.’ No. Following Jesus and hoarding wealth are diametrically opposed. The poor have a claim on our material prosperity, according to Jesus (Mk 10: 21). A complete life-change must be undertaken by the wealthy that accommodates itself to others’ needs before a life lived with Jesus can be undertaken.

So: it looks pretty bad for the rich young man, whom I, too, have now begun to love. In losing Jesus he loses everything worth having, and his previously easy life suddenly becomes drenched in sorrow. Mark tells us that his face falls and he ‘goes away sad.’ I am certain that this is true.

But I still wonder: is it as bad as it looks for the rich young man? Is everything really over for him? I think of him reflecting on what he experienced with Jesus. He will not forget this encounter. He will remember it to the end of his life. And this may be his salvation.

Some final thoughts begin to take shape in my mind as I mentally say good-bye to a much-loved young man. I reflect that, ordinarily, the gospels show that some profound sorrow or disease – or both – is actually what opens people up to receive Jesus’ life, his love, his healing, his teaching about the Kingdom. For them, their woundedness, whether physical or moral or spiritual, is an unexpected blessing that enables them to gain the true treasure, which is Jesus.

But for others, the whole thing works in reverse–or it can. In the case of the rich young man, he comes to Jesus ‘nearly perfect,’ not conscious of woundedness or moral failings. When he leaves Jesus he feels much worse than he did when he arrived. He has been afflicted with a profound wound of sorrow. There are many, many untold stories in the gospels. We do not know exactly what happens to the rich young man after he ‘goes away sad.’ We know only that Jesus gives him the gift of a deep sorrow, the likes of which the young man had probably never known before in his life of wealth, comfort and cheer.

But wait. We know something else, too. Jesus gives him another gift to take away–and just as important: a moment of the most perfect human fulfilment. Jesus had been filled with love for him, and had looked at him with love. We are back to the idea with which we began our reflection: Mark’s insistence on Jesus’ look of love. This is of vital importance to Mark and it is even easier now to see why. We are talking about God-made-man looking at the rich young man with love. This look will be deeper and more profoundly moving than anything else he will ever experience. This combination of sorrow and love, it seems to me, is a combination that, given time, cannot fail to have affected the young man, to have opened him up, to have made him rethink his priorities, reconsider his actions. True, there is nothing in Jesus’ loving look to force the young man into acquiescence: he was free to refuse Jesus and he did. But, let’s note that he refused Jesus’ invitation right then. A door remains open to him; Jesus doesn’t stop loving people. There was still a chance to become a Christian later and to be healed of his sorrow and receive the joy of life in Christ. His life after this experience need not be a complete tragedy.

For those of us who may recognise ourselves in this story, who fear we may have lost the love of Christ forever along with our chance to be his follower, I think we can assume that Mark would hold that it doesn’t work like that. Jesus’ look of love lasts forever. The rich young man was eager, open and willing, but unprepared for the cost involved in following Jesus. He needed to grow up, to grow into Jesus’ love. The gift–the ‘package’–of sorrow and of love is powerful. The young man arrived at Jesus’ feet unprepared, he went away both loved and sorrowing. Through this gift, and over time, preparation for life with Christ was possible to him, as it is for anyone. Let’s hope he made that preparation and returned later, maybe after Jesus’ death, to join the growing community of Christians. Shall we join, too?

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2 July: The Good Shepherd

St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

One of the classic Victorian hymns that still speaks to us today.

Souls of men! why will ye scatter 
Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
From a love so true and deep?
Was there ever kindest shepherd
Half so gentle, half so sweet,
As the Saviour who would have us
Come and gather round his feet?

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy
Like the wideness of the sea;
There’s a kindness in his justice
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Saviour;
There is healing in his blood.

But we make his love too narrow
By false limits of our own;
And we lose the tender shepherd
In the judge upon the throne.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of man’s mind;
And the heart of the eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

FW Faber

The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice.

John 10;27.

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22 June: The lawyer’s duty.

Samuel Johnson

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas More, a patron of lawyers, so here are two passages to get us thinking about the law and crime, sin and guilt. Christ came to bring the Law of the Old Testament to perfection while challenging those who lived their daily lives by minute rules but bound up burdens too heavy for other people.

On the other hand, the law of the land is there to protect the citizen from harm by the state or his fellows.What is the role of the lawyer? First we hear from Doctor Johnson among lawyers in Edinburgh, during his travels in Scotland on ‘the art and power of arranging evidence’; everyone has a right to a fair hearing. Then Andrew McCooey, a former judge, reflects on the role of faith and the wisdom a lawyer needs to bring to ethical dilemmas.

We talked of the practice of the law. William Forbes said, he thought an honest lawyer should never undertake a cause which he was satisfied was not a just one. ‘Sir,’ said Mr Johnson, ‘a lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause which he undertakes, unless his client asks his opinion, and then he is bound to give it honestly. The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the judge.

Consider, sir; what is the purpose of courts of justice? It is, that every man may have his cause fairly tried, by men appointed to try causes. A lawyer is not to tell what he knows to be a lie: he is not to produce what he knows to be a false deed; but he is not to usurp the province of the jury and of the judge, and determine what shall be the effect of evidence—what shall be the result of legal argument.

As it rarely happens that a man is fit to plead his own cause, lawyers are a class of the community, who, by study and experience, have acquired the art and power of arranging evidence, and of applying to the points of issue what the law has settled. A lawyer is to do for his client all that his client might fairly do for himself, if he could. If, by a superiority of attention, of knowledge, of skill, and a better method of communication, he has the advantage of his adversary, it is an advantage to which he is entitled. There must always be some advantage, on one side or other; and it is better that advantage should be had by talents, than by chance.

If lawyers were to undertake no causes till they were sure they were just, a man might be precluded altogether from a trial of his claim, though, were it judicially examined, it might be found a very just claim.’

The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by James Boswell

The Christian lawyer should walk with the Lord, asking him to direct and bring to us the work he wishes us to undertake and to give us wisdom and discernment in advising our clients. Christ puts up no walls or barriers; no one is so great a sinner that he will not extend his hand to help when there is even a twitch of movement towards conversion. And he expects us also to have that approach.

… We must not do what is popular but what we judge to be right. And we must remember that every human being, including the vilest of criminals, is a child of God, and has the potential to be redeemed.

Andrew McCooey, Hate the sin, not the sinner, The Tablet, 26.2.22, p6.

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A prayer for Ukraine.

Loving God,
We pray for the people of Ukraine,
for all those suffering or afraid,
that you will be close to them and protect them.

We pray for world leaders,
for compassion, strength and wisdom to guide their choices.

We pray for the world
that in this moment of crisis,
we may reach out in solidarity
to our brothers and sisters in need.

May we walk in your ways
so that peace and justice
become a reality for the people of Ukraine
and for all the world.

Amen.

This Prayer comes from CAFOD. Pope Francis had already designated this month as a time to pray for migrants, of whom there are countless thousands now fleeing Ukraine.

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6 March, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight.

scaales
Just and true measurements

Let us continue raising our consciousness this Lent! Our Proverb takes up an idea from yesterday’s prayer from Eastern Vespers.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked underneath with a crown and ‘VR’ to tell that they were trustworthy because they had been tested by officials representing Queen Victoria. Grandson Abel and I use them quite often. Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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5 March: Lent and Fasting

Homeless campers, St Mildred’s, Canterbury.

What is Lent all about? One answer is that it is about being conscious of our relationships with God and our neighbours. This is well expressed in the following prayer from Lenten Vespers in the Byzantine Rite:

 While fasting with the body, brothers and sisters, 
let us also fast in spirit. 
Let us loosen every bond of iniquity; 
let us undo the knots of every contact made by violence; 
let us tear up all unjust agreements; 
let us give bread to the hungry 
and welcome to our house the poor who have no roof to cover them, 
that we may receive mercy from Christ our God.

From The Lenten cookbook by Scott Hahn and David Geisser p31. Reviewed here on 12 February.

The churches are an important part of Canterbury’s work to get people off the streets. Being allowed to camp in the churchyard at Saint Mildred’s is perhaps as much help as these particular people can accept at this time.

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Pray for Peace with Pope Francis and Pax Christi

Here is a prayer of Pope Francis for Peace.

God of Love,
show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.

Enlighten those who have power and money,
that they may love the common good,
advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.

O Lord,
seize us with your power and light,
help us protect all life,
to prepare for a better future, 
for the coming of your Kingdom 
of justice, peace, love and beauty.

Praise be to you! AMEN.

www.paxchristi.org.uk

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8 February: Reactionary Pope Condemns Slavery!

Slaves are evident in this triumphal procession from a Methodist children’s book contemporary with Gregory XVI. The grooms leading the horses, but also the crowd of captives following the chariot, are all slaves, or about to become slaves.

Each year about the feast of Saint Bakhita, we turn our thoughts to those caught up in slave trade, which we know all too well has not gone away.

Gregory XVI was not the most liberal of Popes. He condemned railways as ‘chemins d’enfer’, roads to hell, because they encouraged the rise of the culture of trade and increased the power and influence of the middle classes, upsetting the social order. For all that he followed a number of rprevious popes in recognising that the slave trade was indefensible. His 1839 encyclical ‘In Supremo Apostolatus’ cited Saint Paul to the Ephesians (6:5ff) and Colossians (3:22ff, 4:1) as signs of the early Church demonstrating a new attitude to slavery. Slave and Master were both human, both answerable to one Lord, both to be treated with respect. Gregory’s language is not that of Pope Francis, but sadly, Francis and today’s Church must still address the issues of modern slavery. First Pope Gregory, followed by Sisters in Zambia today, who are working to address these issues.

We have judged that it belonged to Our pastoral solicitude to exert Ourselves to turn away the Faithful from the inhuman slave trade in Negroes and all other men. … Desiring to remove such a shame from all the Christian nations, having fully reflected over the whole question and having taken the advice of many of Our Venerable Brothers the Cardinals, and walking in the footsteps of Our Predecessors, We warn and adjure earnestly in the Lord faithful Christians of every condition that no one in the future dare to use violence against anyone, despoil him of his possessions, reduce to servitude, or lend aid and favour to those who give themselves up to these practices, or exercise that inhuman traffic by which the Blacks, as if they were not men but rather animals, having been brought into servitude, in no matter what way, are, without any distinction, in contempt of the rights of justice and humanity, bought, sold, and devoted sometimes to the hardest labour.

We reprove, then, by virtue of Our Apostolic Authority, all the practices mentioned above as absolutely unworthy of the Christian name. By the same Authority We prohibit and strictly forbid any Ecclesiastic or lay person from presuming to defend as permissible this traffic in Blacks under no matter what pretext or excuse, or from publishing or teaching in any manner whatsoever, in public or privately, opinions contrary to what We have set forth in this Apostolic Letter.

The following photograph is from Global Sisters Report, it introduces an article by Sister Eucharia Madueke about how Sisters in Zambia are organising to combat human trafficking. ‘Open your eyes’ is a call to us as well. Read the full article here.

Sisters from across Zambia attended a workshop in November 2021 in Makeni, Lusaka, on advocacy against human trafficking. The sisters stand with the signs they made as part of their awareness-raising efforts. (Sr. Eucharia Madueke)

Sisters from across Zambia attended a workshop in November 2021 in Makeni, Lusaka, on advocacy against human trafficking. The sisters stand with the signs they made as part of their awareness-raising efforts. (Sr. Eucharia Madueke)

Note froom the Editor of Global Sisters Report: In observance of the Feb. 8 feast day of Sr. Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of human trafficking survivors, which is also the International Day of Prayer and Awareness Against Human Trafficking, Global Sisters Report is publishing two special columns about a workshop held in Zambia by the Africa Faith and Justice Network to raise awareness among sisters about modern-day slavery and train them as advocates against it. (Read the other column here.) This is an example of efforts across the globe that sisters are undertaking to help stop human trafficking. Learn more at Talitha Kum; the U.S. Catholic Sisters Against Human Trafficking, and through Global Sisters Report’s extensive coverage.

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22 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day V.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Day 5 “Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising”

(Matthew 2:9)

Readings

Psalm 121 I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where will my help come?

Matthew 2:7-10 Ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising

Reflection

Again and again, the scriptures tell us how God walks with us. The path may not always be straight: sometimes we are led to retrace our steps, sometimes to return by a different route. But in all our journeying through life, we can be confident that God, who neither “sleeps nor slumbers”, is with us when we slip or fall.

Even in the greatest darkness, God’s light is with us. Most perfectly, in the fullness of time, God sends Jesus Christ, who is the guiding light for all nations, the glory of God in the world, the source of divine light and life.

The way ahead into unity with one another, into closer union with Christ, is not always clear. In our earnest attempts to build unity ourselves it is all too easy to lose sight of this fundamental message of the scriptures: that God does not abandon his people even in their failures and divisiveness. This is God’s message of hope for the whole world. As the story of the Magi reminds us, God guides people of all kinds, by the light of the star, to where Christ, the light of the world, is to be found.

Prayer

God our Guide,
you sent the star to lead the Magi to your only begotten Son.
Fill us with the confidence that you are walking with us.
Open our eyes to your Spirit, and encourage us in our faith,
so that we may confess that Jesus is Lord,
and worship him as the Magi did in Bethlehem.
Amen.

Hymn Verse

Hope of my heart, strength of my soul,
Guide Thou my footsteps and keep me whole;
My grace and fortress, Thou wilt be,
Oh, let Thy mighty hand ever lead me.
                                        Barney E Warren, 1893

Questions

Global: As a global community we continue to face many challenges. How do we seek God’s guidance in our response to those challenges?

Local: How is God guiding your Christian community at this time? Where are you being called to act?

Personal: Reflect on a time when you have felt or seen God’s guidance. What was that like?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Global: Start (or continue) a conversation around your Christian community about how you are responding to the challenges of climate justice. As churches, take part in global prayer and action for climate justice (https://www.prayandact4climate.org).

Local: Plan a Climate Sunday service between the churches in your locality. Visit climatesunday.org for resources and inspiration.

Personal: Seek out a community to be part of to support you in your action responding to global challenges. For example if you like craft you could turn your skills into activism in community with the craftivist-collective.com.

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