Acting Justly

To be a person of faith is not, of course, contrary to being a person of action. We have seen it many times before: 'Faith without works is dead ' or 'Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness)'.  Ultimately this comes down to a simple fact: love of God leads to love of neighbor.

 

We have seen in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus that the two great commandments are to "Love God above all else and to love our neighbor as ourselves" (Matthew 22:37-39).  This command to love our neighbors as ourselves is not meant to happen only for one day or to be some nice, pie-in-the-sky idea, but rather is meant to guide everything we do, for all of our days.

 

As a life of faith and prayer transforms us, we have to ask the question:  what kind of person am I becoming?  Am I someone people want to be around? Do I care what is happening to those around me? Do I believe my actions, cooperating with God's grace, are God’s love and mercy in the world? Do I want to help bring others in to right relationship with God and the world around them? The answer to these questions depends on God’s grace and our cooperation with it, or lack thereof.

 

To love our neighbor then requires the virtue of justice – giving others their due. Jesus Christ is so adamant that 'love of God' is inextricably tied up with giving others what is due them (love of neighbor/justice) that he spends the last 16 verses of chapter 25 in Matthew’s Gospel describing how it affects our immortal soul. The works of mercy that he mentions--feeding the hungry; giving drink to the thirsty; clothing the naked; sheltering the homeless; visiting the sick; visiting the imprisoned; burying the dead--are the works that keep our faith alive. To live our faith without these is to build our house on sand.

 

Mother Teresa and her Missionaries of Charity, have given the faithful a great example of reaching out to neighbors in need – in the here and now. Yes, we as a people of faith should work for structural changes as we are able, but we should not wait for those changes to set about doing good. We are called by the Lord to act NOW. Thus when we rise from bed each morning and put on our trousers, or what-have-you, let us recognize the invitation from our Lord each day to "put Him on" as well (Eph 4:24; Col 3:10). That no matter who we are or what we do, whether we be teachers, dancers, farmers, dentists or zoo keepers, we can find ways to put our faith into action in the little things every day. We CAN find moments to feed the hungry, to visit someone who is lonely or sick, to teach some about the Faith, about the reality of the love of God and Jesus Christ, or to give sound advice to someone in doubt. These just actions cannot happen by themselves, for the soul of 'love of neighbor' must be rooted in 'love of God': prayer, Eucharist, silence and contemplation. Then we can help to bring about the Kingdom of God and its justice, even in our own backyards.