A guest column from the Centre for Contemplation and Action
First published, Monday, October 17th, 2022
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 centre 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.
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