by Father Mike Stubbs
A figure sits in front of the courthouse. She holds scales in one hand. And she is blindfolded.
That is how we often picture justice. We want all persons to be equal in the eyes of the law. To do that, we seek to ignore their status, the details of their life. That way, we believe that we can avoid favoritism.
On the other hand, Sunday’s first reading — Sir 35:12-14, 16-18 — takes the opposite approach to arrive at justice. It proclaims that “the Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites.”
But to avoid favoritism, God purposefully listens to the voices of those whom society typically would ignore: “The Lord is not deaf to the wail of the orphan, nor to the widow when she pours out her complaint.”
The rich and the powerful find it all too easy to make their voices heard. They can drown out the pleas for help that come from the poor. That is why the reading from the Book of Sirach expresses special concern for widows and orphans — in other words, for the poor. At the time that Sirach was written, widows and orphans especially lacked economic and political clout. In that patriarchal society, they were lost without a man.
In our own day and age, there are still groups of people who lack economic and political clout. They may not necessarily be widows and orphans. Instead, immigrants, low-pay workers, unwed mothers, and single parents come to mind. Their voices also must be heard, if we are to have true justice in our world.
For that to happen, perhaps we need to open our eyes, rather than close them. For example, the fact that someone has made a significant contribution
to a judge’s political campaign fund could make a big difference on how that judge rules on a case. In that situation, Lady Justice must not be blindfolded.
In general, transparency and openness help to create an atmosphere in which justice can flourish. And God wills justice. That is the point that our reading from Sirach is making. It calls us to be aware and knowledgeable about those seeking justice, especially the underprivileged. That way, God can work through us to bring justice to our world.
“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right” (Sir 35:17-18).