Today’s first reading is from the Book of Job. Job was a dad, a family man; he had seven sons and three daughters, and I have no hesitation in believing that he was a proud dad as well. Besides being wealthy in offspring, he was also wealthy in material terms: seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred donkeys and many servants. There was no need for him to ‘do the Lottery every week’!
We read that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East! … To put that into context, is there anyone in today’s modern world, of similar character and status we could honour with the title ‘the greatest man in the West?’
Job didn’t let his wealth or status go to his head, because God tells us that there was no one on earth like Job ‘because he was a sound and honest man who feared God and shunned evil.’ Despite his greatness, his goodness and his faithfulness to God, we all know what happened to Job! …. He lost the lot! …. Why? Because Satan bet God that if Job lost everything he loved, cherished, owned, Job would curse God. Put the blame on God! God would be used as a scape-goat for Job’s fall from grace. ….. God accepted the bet but with one condition, namely that Satan was not to kill Job.
Job was humiliated beyond most people’s wildest imagination. In my book, I can’t think of anything so demeaning as public humiliation. Job’s body became a putrid, festering mess, oozing puss, foul smelling, ….. and the only way he could reduce the overpowering stench of his visibly corrupting flesh, was to sit on a heap of manure. I wonder if there is a greater public indictment than that. The Book of Job then describes the very long discussions between God and Job concerning Job’s predicament, and God answers all the questions Job has a mind to ask; … and then it’s God’s turn to ask Job questions. Job does not/chooses not to answer the questions, perhaps because he realises that the true answers to God’s questions can only be known by God because God is master of all and creator of all. Job’s faith and trust in God remained solid, he didn’t blame God in any way whatsoever for his humiliation. Job wasn’t selfrighteous! He didn’t demand justice! He didn’t ask for compensation! He didn’t apportion blame for the loss of his wife, their children and all his worldly goods. Job trusted in God and his justice!
Today, when disasters happen that affect the public, be it a few sufferers or many, I often have the impression that the ‘victim, or victims’ demand answers even before the dust has settled, and if the answers are slow in forthcoming, or not to their satisfaction, they cry ‘it’s a cover-up’! accompanied by the demand: ‘we want justice!’ I then ask myself, is it justice they are demanding or vengeance. I say that because of their strident attitude when being questioned by the Press! For your consideration I offer a simple example of the ‘attitude’ I’m talking about.
Let us suppose a man, a dad, a husband is gaoled for offences against persons and he has admitted his guilt. The gaol sentence passed on the guilty person is the reparation for the offence imposed by the state. However, let us suppose that during the sentence being served by the guilty man, the family of the injured party or parties seek compensation against the family of the guilty man. The compensation made by the victims, may well be the cause of the family of the guilty person losing their home. The family themselves are not guilty, why should they suffer the added humiliation of losing their home, when they are suffering both the imprisonment of their dad and the loss of his income? Purely as an observer of various trials that are discussed through the media, it seems that it has become part of the common psyche that true justice and satisfaction to the injured party is only achieved or served when it is equated with financial compensation. In certain cases, judgement does include financial restitution, but that is a decision of the court and not a private action brought by the injured party subsequent to the trial.
The definition of justice in the dictionary relating to ethics reads: ‘[justice is] the moral principle that determines the fairness of actions’. I know that one cannot equate morality with the law, as the two are not always compatible, but I thought it appropriate to consider the definition of ‘justice’ as included in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, remembering that Justice, as well as prudence, fortitude and temperance, is a cardinal virtue of the church. [CCC 1805-7] It reads:
Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbour. Justice towards God is called the ‘virtue of religion’. Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity [the quality of being impartial or reasonable] with regard to persons and the common good.
Perhaps to add a compassionate viewpoint to the debate concerning justice to the family of the gaoled man mentioned above, one may wish to read some short excerpts from the Bible. These three excerpts may be helpful: ………. Exodus 22:26, Deuteronomy 24:13 and Luke 6: 29-30. Justice comes in many forms, and is not always accompanied by compassion. As you may have surmised, those short extracts I have just mentioned are all about justice with compassion. In short, compensation, if it is justified, should be tempered with compassion.