O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,
who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.
About the O Antiphons
What is justice? Is it the same thing as fairness?
Fair is treating two people the same, regardless of their circumstances. In other words, they shoulder the same burdens, and reap the same benefits. That sounds right, doesn’t it?
But what if the two people don’t have the same capabilities, can’t bear the burden equally? If the burden to be borne is, say, a 50 pound sack of potatoes? Would a frail, elderly person be able to handle that as well as a fit, strong, younger person?
Not usually. So what do we do with the person who can’t bear such a heavy burden, who needs more help? Invoke fairness, and let them struggle? Tell them they should work harder or should have made better choices when they were younger? Let them suffer if they can’t handle it?
Or do we work for justice, which would seek for a way to get their needs met with dignity, regardless of whether or not everything comes out equally in the end?
Justice is about putting things right, which isn’t always the same thing as making sure they’re fair. In reality, we all have different needs, different abilities, different circumstances, all of which can actually make strict fairness turn into injustice.
Justice might mean we have to get over believing we’re entitled to our rigidity, to our Me-ness. It might mean we have to move away from self-interest and toward relationship.
God, help me to get out of my way and into yours today.
–Baya Clare CSJ
Photograph by Clare T. Pelkey CSJ