October 2, 2022

Homily for the Second Sunday of Luke - The Meaning of Justice (Metr. Hierotheos of Nafpaktos)

 Homily for the Second Sunday of Luke

The Meaning of Justice

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou

"And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?" (Luke 6:33)

Beloved brethren,

If there is something that characterizes all the people of our time, it is the search for justice. Everyone thirsts and shouts for its domination, because they think that this is how peace and love will prevail on earth. Justice, which is connected to equality, is the expectation of all people and all systems. However, justice is interpreted differently by each person.

I will briefly formulate some thoughts about justice and how Christianity understands it.

Christ said in today's Gospel reading: "Just as you want men to do to you, do likewise to them" (Luke 5:31). That is: "As you want people to treat you, so you treat them." The rendering of equality is the principle of justice. That is, if I want to be loved, I must also love, if I do not want others to wrong me, I must also not wrong others.

We also find this principle in the era before Christ. Christ, however, does not limit Himself to this, but goes even deeper, emphasizing the great importance of love. In other words, love transcends human justice, since with its action we come to love even our enemies. To hate the one who loves us is a natural state. To love the one who loves us is natural life. But to love the one who hates and persecutes us, this is a supernatural life and Christ leads us to this life.

Specifically, Christ says: "And if you love those who love you, what great thing are you doing? Even the wicked love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what great thing are you doing? The wicked do the same." And then He emphasizes that we must resemble our Father, God, who is merciful and loves all people: "Love your enemies and do good..." (Luke 5:35).

Thus, love is a transcendence of human justice. If justice prevails in the world, as we usually understand it, but without love and peace, this is injustice. Love, however, takes upon itself the tragedy of people. This is what Christ did. If He wanted to render justice in the legal sense of the term, then we all would have to die for our sins. He, however, out of love took upon Himself our sin and died for us. Thus He exceeded human justice.

This leads us to something else deeper. Real justice is identified with love and philanthropy and cannot be understood without and beyond it. Saint Nicholas Cabasilas, a theologian of the 14th century, in his works identifies God's justice with His philanthropy. These two terms (justice and philanthropy) are closely related. He writes characteristically: "By saying justice we partly mean the mysterious wisdom of God and philanthropy...". And elsewhere: "...the most sacred Mysteries may fittingly be called 'gates of justice', for it is God's philanthropy and goodness, which is divine virtue and justice, which has provided us these entrances to heaven."

The Holy Fathers emphasize that God is not just in the usual sense of the term. Specifically, Saint Isaac says: "Do not call God just, because His justice is not known by your criteria. Where is God's justice? Because we are sinners and Christ died for us?" The Triune God created the world out of love and philanthropy. When, after man's transgression, corruption entered man and nature, then the Triune God with love recreated and regenerated man and the world. Thus, the real meaning of justice is to be kind and merciful, to take responsibility for every evil that exists in the world, to love people even those who have harmed us.

Another side of the issue of justice is its connection with freedom. The combination of justice and freedom is necessary to preserve the true meaning of both justice and freedom. In many modern political and social systems we see the disturbance of this balance and combination between justice and freedom. Other systems emphasize the freedom of man very much and in the name of this mentality leave man free to abolish the justice of the whole, and other systems in the name of the justice of the whole, in which the State is interested, completely abolish the freedom of man and the they turn into a living tool.

In the spiritual life we live the combination between love and freedom. Man, by the Grace of God, is freed from the tyranny of the passions (hate, avarice, ambition, etc.) and immediately renders justice and love, respects the other. Every saint is very sensitive to matters of justice. They are not easily swayed by the opinions of others and does not make arbitrary judgments. They know the mistake of every person and with love they correct the mistake.

Justice without love is the greatest injustice, the greatest crime. A society that has justice, but no love, is hell. Also, justice without human freedom is pure tyranny. And justice, when it is detached from the Person of Christ, is an abstract situation and is a fallacy. If we want to be just, and if we want justice to prevail in the world, we must apply Christ's commandment "love your enemies" (Luke 5:27).

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.