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When John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who put on fine clothing and live in luxury are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” I tell you, among those born of women no one is greater than John; yet the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.’ (And all the people who heard this, including the tax-collectors, acknowledged the justice of God, because they had been baptized with John’s baptism. But by refusing to be baptized by him, the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected God’s purpose for themselves.)
And all the people … acknowledged the justice of God.
Today we are being given an opportunity to reflect upon our understanding of the word ‘justice’. It is a word we often encounter in our daily lives. Newspaper, television and radio reporters often use the word ‘justice’ as a rallying cry when some heinous crime has been committed or when an act of persecution or prejudice seems to have been perpetrated by some institution or individual. We speak of seeking ‘justice’ when someone’s words or actions have caused us hurt or offence. But, what is meant by the use of the word ‘justice’ in these various contexts?
‘Justice’ is really about integrity, impartiality and rightness. ‘Justice’ is about weighing up the facts and coming to a balanced and informed judgement. However, this definition does not sit easily with the way the word ‘justice’ is so often used. Far too often we should not be speaking of ‘justice’, but rather of ‘revenge’. Too often those who claim to be seeking ‘justice’ are really seeking something much more sinister; rather than following the path of integrity, impartiality and rightness, they are seeking to avenge and to inflict injury.
In today’s reading we hear of what can happen if we take our baptism into the company of those who take their faith in Christ seriously. If we can learn to love God and neighbour, and if we can learn to acknowledge God’s justice as being superior to our thirst for revenge, then we will truly become fellow-travellers in the company of our Lord and Saviour.
There are, and there will continue to be, times when we struggle with God’s justice. But, if we can bring ourselves to trust and have faith, we will invariably find that God’s way is the way of integrity, impartiality and rightness.
Today we are challenged to set aside our human emotional responses and trust in the justice of God, the justice that will prevail at the end of time. Let us pray that we might hold firm to our baptismal promises and walk with those who love God and neighbour before all else.