Image: Pieta, Gustave Moreau [public domain]
In Sacred Scripture, injustice is a consistent synonym for sin. Iniquity is another synonym for both, and its etymology (concerning the origin of words and the meaning of their roots) is even closer to injustice. With this in mind, consider what happened in Boulder, Colorado on Monday, March 22 when Officer Eric Talley responded to an active shooter situation and was killed along with nine others by the gunman. What remedy are we to find for our sorrow in the face of this tragedy and all other injustice?
Justice and Grace
The definition of justice is to render to each what is due. Now, primarily we think of justice in regard to our fellow man (as the Greeks first described it so well), but there’s an analogical sense in which this word is applied to other relationships—including our relationship with God. We owe God the worship which is due Him. That’s also called righteousness: to worship God in sincerity of spirit and in truth. Righteousness is a synonym for justice in Sacred Scripture for that very reason: we must be sincere, truthful, and therefore righteous, or just, in our dealings with our neighbor. As St. John Chrysostom says, to rob our neighbor is also to rob others (because a starving neighbor will likely feel the need to rob in order to survive). In an act of injustice toward our neighbor we are also robbing God, since we’re not behaving rationally, as He created us. We would be sowing discord in His creation.
There’s something extra or supernatural (literally “above and beyond nature”) in Divine Grace: grace is fundamentally another word for gift. You don’t have to give a gift to anyone in justice, but love, gratitude, and even hope are the movements of the soul that lead us human beings to give gifts. God’s love moves Him (if anything can be said to move God, by analogy) to send His Only Begotten Son, as John 3:16 says.
What about sadness? Sadness, much like anger, is the emotion we rational animals naturally experience when faced with evil, either past or present. St. Thomas Aquinas calls this normal and even expected. Our Lord himself was sad at Lazarus’ death and in the Garden of Gethsemane, so it’s certainly not sinful to be sad; on the contrary, you would rightly call it “right and just” in many circumstances in this “Valley of Tears,” to use phrases from the Preface at Mass and the Salve Regina.
Never forget that this sadness was occasioned by original sin, when death entered the world, and that we increase and aggravate the occasions of sadness whenever we cooperate with Satan to commit sin. As in Genesis 3, God gave an appropriate punishment for sin as well as the promise of a remedy. This remedy is essentially obedience to God’s will in our state in life, including to willingly carry our daily crosses: we say fiat, or “let it be done unto me” and “not as I will but as thou wilt,” as Our Lady and Our Lord said. We stop repeating after Satan, non serviam: “I will not serve”. As with the Troopers who accompanied Officer Talley’s body to his funeral Mass on March 29th: “An honor to serve, a duty to protect.”
With this fiat we will not abandon Our Sorrowful Mother at the Cross, as Adam was conspicuously absent in that other Garden while Eve was tempted by Satan. With this fiat we go beyond human justice and enter deeply into Divine Grace.
What Eric Talley did by rushing into King Soopers when an enraged man was murdering innocent people wasn’t an act of human justice: this Law Enforcement Officer didn’t “owe” his life to another man. He did, however, owe his life to God, and the same God who created Him also redeemed him and said in John 15:13: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Likewise, St. Paul had written: “For why did Christ, when as yet we were weak, according to the time, die for the ungodly? For scarce for a just man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some one would dare to die” (Romans 5:7).
This then is how we ought to respond when we are faced with injustice and suffering sadness. Our Lord gave the crucial (from crux, “cross”) piece of the Divine Puzzle in the Sermon on the Mount:
“You have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you: and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you: That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust. For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this?” (Matthew 5:43-46).
Charity—the Divine Love with which God loves us and with which He calls us to love Him and our neighbor—is the only remedy for our sadness in this life. And indeed, what reward shall we have if we choose charity: will it not be the imperishable reward of eternal life with God? That is what we children of the Father await, if we persevere as obedient sons and daughters. That is when the Son’s Eternal Sun will rise upon us, never to set, and the rain of our tears will have been wholly wiped from our puffy eyes.