Isaiah (1:10, 16-20) addresses the key biblical concept of justice. Justice means right order, right relationships. The new science tells us that everything is related. Ewe had a dramatic example of interconnectedness when scientists reported that water table monitors in Florida showed significant activity in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
Jesus sought justice and, as his disciples, we are to be justice seekers. Isaiah called Jerusalem Gomorrah and called the religious leaders to task:
Wash yourselves clean!
Put away your misdeeds from before my eyes;
cease doing evil; learn to do good.
Make justice your aim: redress the wronged,
hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow.
In the Old Testament, widows and orphans are symbols of “the least among us.” Justice demands that we treat the least among us with the dignity and respect that they are due as sons and daughters of the living God.
There is an intimate connection between sedakah and humility. Sister Denise Marie Callaghan says:
In Hebrew, justice is rendered sedakah. The idea is that one does sedakah. If it is to be understood properly, it would follow like this: Sedakah is a proper attitude of mind that will prompt the doing of proper deeds. It is a correct, threefold attitude toward God, others, and self. The proper actions, listed below, flow from the proper attitudes.” Thus justice is right relation with God, others, and ourselves. ( http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3885/is_200210/ai_n9100941)
In Denver, a couple opened the Same Café (http://www.soallmayeat.org/ ). [Read the URL for a message] Anyone can eat there and pay what they can. If they cannot pay, they are offered jobs in the restaurant. This prompted one customer who could afford it to state that she was probably going to pay twice as much as was asked. The couple wants to feed people and treat them with dignity. In the report on the news, the husband was welcoming people as they entered and the wife was seen hugging some of the least among us as they were leaving the restaurant. This is a concrete example of biblical justice in hard economic times. We can each find ways to make justice our aim. Then, even though our sins be scarlet, we may become white as snow. God is merciful and compassionate.
Jesus touches a lot of bases here (Mt. 23:1-12). Thomas Merton tells us in Seeds of Contemplation that humility is essential to our spiritual lives. Merton writes, “Humility consists in being precisely the person you actually are before God. . . .” (at 99) We are called by God to be who and what we are, nothing more, nothing less. We cannot be and, in fact, should not try to be someone else. We are called to be in right relationship to God, ourselves, and other people. We are what we are and we are a work in progress. We accept our weaknesses and failures and find God therein.
Humble people preach what they practice. They do not try to impose heavy burdens on others. They do not seek praise and the limelight of acclaim. They do not seek places of honor at banquets. Still less do they wear symbols of authority or seek fancy titles. I wonder if the people pushing the resurgence in the naming of monsignors in the church have read this! I wonder whether the bishop who wore the long cappa magna at the Tridentine Mass at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last year read this scripture.
Humble people concern themselves only with what leads to union with God and service of others. Again Merton writes, “The humble man takes whatever there is in the world that helps him to find God and leaves the rest aside.” All else is dross and not worthy of any attention. We live among so much pride and vanity. I am reminded of T. S. Eliot, “Here were a decent, godless people; their only monuments the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls.”
The point is that we are all unique. We are all sons and daughters of Abba God who lets the sun shine on the just and the unjust. Jesus is our brother. He has proclaimed the divine reversal upon which humility rests—servant leadership. It is the power of the towel and the bowl. “Wash one another’s feet.” The Spirit empowers us to live in the person, power, and presence of the Risen Jesus.