Have you ever suffered an injustice? For example, has anyone ever accused you of saying something that you never said or doing something that you never did? Everyone who has been the victim of false accusations or any other form of inequity can easily identify with the link between injustice and aggression and hopefully appreciate three alternative, Catholic ways of responding to such wrongdoing.
There is a nonverbal communication exercise that I have often used in seminars which demonstrates what happens when humans meet with aggression. The exercise itself is quite simple. Two people stand facing each other with arms extended and their hands touching palm to palm. When I give the signal, the first person must push with all their might against the second person. That’s the extent of the activity. The point is clear. How does the second person respond? There are only two choices. Either push back or fall down.
Injustice is a form of aggression and our responses to being treated unfairly may seem equally limited. Either get even or give in.
In the United States, our court system boasts a third way of dealing with injustice. Ideally, an impartial judge and jury listen to both sides of the story and pronounce which party is to blame. Although this may appear to be justice, what often results is a tiny recompense for the wounded and an enormous financial gain for the attorneys. Let’s look at a concrete scenario. If a child is permanently disabled by the reckless driving of a drunkard, does a court sentence of providing financial support for the rest of that child’s life really constitute justice? No. It may approach compensation, but it certainly isn’t fair. After all, an innocent child’s life is ruined and a sober criminal drives off without a scratch.
Our Lord knew that we would encounter any number of ill treatments in this world as He did Himself. A cursory look at the close of His life suggests that Jesus crumbled before injustice. In the end, he was silent, scourged and slain while his prosecutors washed their hands, gambled for his clothes or jeered along the sidelines.
Thousands of years ago the prophet Isaiah warned us that there would be no justice or salvation except in God (Is. 45). And he was absolutely right. Does this mean that we shouldn’t look for equity? No. However, it does suggest that we shouldn’t be surprised if we get treated badly and end up without satisfaction.
Alternative Catholic Responses
The more difficult question is how do we, as followers of Christ, react when injustice comes into our lives? Are the only options retaliating or running away? Neither response seems Christian. For holy homework, here are three practical, Catholic choices we can try instead.
1. Retreat into activity. When someone wrongs us, we shouldn’t maneuver to get even nor move away in anger because then we are likely to lash out at the next innocent person who crosses our path. Rather, as quickly as we can, the same day if possible, volunteer at the nearest soup kitchen, shelter or nursing home. Prefer any activity that means helping people who are less fortunate. It’s amazing how quickly our own troubles can take on their proper perspective when we reach out to others who are starving, homeless, or very ill and lonely.
2. Take a crucifix in hand. This doesn’t have to be large. Most rosary or necklace crosses are small enough to fit in our palm. Envelop the corpus of Christ tightly inside a fist and pray these words of Isaiah over and over again: there is no just or saving god but Me.
3. Pray for our enemies. This is not easy. But with eyes closed, we can meditate on the many injustices that commissioned Christ to die for our sins. He did nothing wrong and ended up being crucified to a tree. Behold the Man and ask, if God were truly just with us for our sins, what portion of His son’s cross would we have to carry? Then pray that our enemies will share a similar enlightenment and leave any thoughts of vengeance to the Lord.
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