Richard Rohr writes that justice is an essential part of God’s nature. It does not manifest as vengeance or “getting even” but as a method of restoration and healing:
God’s justice begins to be revealed in the Torah. If you are God, you don’t have any criteria outside yourself that you can conform to and make yourself just. God is simply faithful to who God is. God can only be true to God’s own criteria. For God to be just, therefore, is for God to be faithful to God’s own character and words. This is very different from any vengeful and retaliatory understanding of justice, which is the later juridical understanding.
God’s power for justice is precisely God’s power to restore people when they are broken or hurt. God uses their mistakes to liberate them, to soften them, to enlighten them, to transform them, and to heal them. No text in the Hebrew Scriptures equates God’s justice with vengeance on the sinner. It might look like that on the surface, but if we read the whole passage and understand the context, chastisement is always meant to bring us back to love and union. God’s justice is always saving justice, always healing justice. What is experienced as punishment is always for the sake of restoration, not for vengeance. Therefore, justice for the people is to participate in this wholeness and spaciousness of God, to be brought into God’s freedom.
Richard describes the freedom of contemplatives who have discovered the “prophetic position”:
True contemplatives have changed sides from inside—from the power position to the position of vulnerability and solidarity, which gradually changes everything. Once we are freed from our paranoia, from the narcissism that thinks we are the center of the world, or from our belief that our rights and dignity have to be defended before those of others, we can finally live and act with justice and truth. Once these blockages are removed—and that is what contemplative prayer does—then we just have to offer a few guiding statements of social analysis to name what is really going on beneath the surface of a system, and people get it for themselves. They start being drawn by God and by love instead of being driven by anger and retaliation.
True contemplation is the most subversive of activities because it undercuts the one thing that normally refuses to give way—our natural individualism and narcissism. We all move toward the ego. We even solidify the ego as we get older if something doesn’t expose it for the lie that it is—not because it is bad, but because it thinks it is the whole and only thing! We don’t really change by ourselves; God changes us, if we expose ourselves to God at a deep level. This is why Christian meditation will never fill stadiums; not so many people want their narcissism and separateness to be exposed as the silliness that they are.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Dancing Standing Still: Healing the World from a Place of Prayer (New York: Paulist Press, 2014), 38–40, 87–88.
Explore Further. . .
- Listen to Richard’s homily “God is All Vulnerable More Than All Mighty.”
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Nathan Garcia, Untitled (detail), 2019, photograph, Albuquerque. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Imagine our world illumined by love and justice.
Story from Our Community:
I am an immigrant, gay parent, scientist and ex-religious brother. For me, the Daily Meditations keep percolating, challenging, and filling the gaps between my early beliefs about God, church, community, and universe, and my new views which are starting to emerge. The CAC’s teachings are resonating with our communities’ cries for justice, equality—and above all Love! —Armando P.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.