Daily Reflection
June 17th, 2002
Cathy Weiss Pedersen
Campus Ministry
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1 Kings 21:1-16
Psalm 5:2-3, 5-6, 7
Matthew 5:38-42

What is justice?  How should we deal with injustice?

In I Kings, King Ahab wants the vineyard of his neighbor, Naboth.  Naboth refuses to sell or trade his family's ancestral heritage.  Ahab's wife, Jezebel plots to have Naboth dishonored and then killed, thus freeing the king to take Naboth's vineyard.

Such injustice and greed are appalling.  However, as I reflect on this past year's events and the ongoing war against terrorism and its possible escalation, anxious about the jockeying for power in the Middle East as well as between Pakistan and India, I realize that much has not changed.

I am encouraged by the novelist, Barbara Kingsolver's reflections in her recent book, Small Wonder (2002).  She "wishes our national anthem was not about bombs bursting in air, but the one about purple mountains' majesties and amber waves of grain."  She says, "...it invites us to invest our hearts most deeply in invulnerable majesties than can never be brought down in a stroke of anger.  If we can agree on anything in these difficult times, it must be that we have the resources to behave more generously than we do, ...that we are brave enough to rise from the ashes of loss as better citizens of the world."  "...What a vast  inheritance for our children that would be, if we were to become a nation humble before our rich birthright, whose graciousness makes us beloved."

I want to agree with Barbara.  Yet I struggle with the events of 9-11 and the devastation of the people caught in this awful drama.  Recently, I received a photo/musical tribute via the internet to all who lost their lives in the 9-11 disaster.  Victims’ pictures flashed over the screen, interspersed by the minute by minute photos of destruction of that day.  However, the closing words were jarring. Addressing the terrorists, the website states:  "At an hour of our choosing, the United States of America will get you.  Every last one of you evil cowards.  We will annihilate you.  We will give you a jihad that you cannot win."  In the closing tribute to the victims and heroes of 9-11, the website concludes:  " We met the worst of humanity with the best of humanity.  And we are united, as one, in our quest:  JUSTICE."

What does justice look like?  What justice is demanded in a world that witnesses the death of 35,600 of the world's children due to conditions of starvation?  Though we are angered by the 9-11 devastation, how should we respond?  Jesus teaches, "You have heard it said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil....Give to the one who asks of you and do not turn your back on the one who wants to borrow."

It seems that Barbara Kingsolver' reflection most closely mirrors today’s gospel.  Yet, how do we live the gospel message in the face of such destructive evil on our planet?  Evil exists in many forms, including the death of so many every day from hunger.

Easy answers do not exist.   However, I believe that an example of how we might respond to destructive evil was evidenced in the words of the abbot in Conception, Missouri after a gunman killed monks at the Conception Abbey.  He said that he and the monks will pray for those who were injured and/or died, as well as for the gunman and his family.  He said that those at the abbey will pray for the gift of forgiveness.

Is this what Jesus was challenging us to do in the face of horrible evil?  It is a difficult demand to avoid retaliation.  It is also difficult to examine our own role in the ongoing deaths of innocents around the world.

I/we do need God's spirit of love, peace and compassion in our time.  How to work for justice?  I keep returning to the phrase, "If we want peace, we must work for justice."  Everything, perhaps even the life of our planet, will depend on how we choose to interpret and live out this adage.

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