June 25, 2019
by Eileen Wirth
Creighton University's Department of Journalism, Media and Computing
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 372

Genesis 13:2, 5-18
Psalms 15:2-3a, 3bc-4ab, 5
Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Collect Prayer for this Week

"He who does justice will live in the presence of the Lord." Psalm 15

In 1964 as the nation was rocked by urban riots, my mom took my sisters and me to New York for the World’s Fair. For farm girls who had never traveled, seeing the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and a Broadway play was exciting.

But the sight I remember most was the shocking view of New York’s slums during our train ride into the city. Suddenly the rioting we had watched on the TV made sense. I remember thinking that if I lived in these neighborhoods, I’d throw a brick too.

I recalled that ride and the definition of justice I had memorized in grade school when I reflected on today’s readings. Even as a teen-ager, I knew that slum conditions in New York didn’t constitute “justice” and that fighting for justice was imperative if I took my religion seriously.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines justice as working for equity among people. The full definition makes it clear that our faith obliges us to work for justice – it’s not optional.

This is especially true for those of us who won what I call “the birth lottery.” We did so when we “picked” loving parents located in peaceful and reasonably prosperous locations that gave us a good start in life. I hate it when someone says, “I did it all myself” because no one succeeds on their own. Sure, we’ve worked hard but we had a huge head start if we “picked” parents who could afford to invest in our future. Justice demands that we recognize our totally random good fortune rather than taking credit for it.

Unlike our parish’s refugee family, I didn’t have to flee my home due to ethnic cleansing or spend 12 years in a camp hoping to go somewhere better. I didn’t have to drop out of school to help support my family. I’m not threatened with deportation because my parents brought me illegally to the U.S. as a small child.

It’s interesting to reflect on the difference between justice and charity which is wonderful but optional. Charity is fun because it’s being lady bountiful. It’s buying something that I don’t need to help my granddaughter’s summer project or doing something cool for my old Creighton department or my beloved Omaha Public Library. On the other hand, justice demands serious action against social evil – pick your cause although I keep coming back to refugees and migrants.

When we perform acts of justice, we’re not being noble. As the psalmist reminds us today, we’re just trying to become worthy to “live in the presence of the Lord.”

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