When I thought about how to discuss the meaning of justice and how it relates to the environment, I have to admit that I was a little stymied. We all have our own ideas of justice. Usually it revolves around what we think is fair for us or those around us. My kids think it’s fair if they get a big piece of cake but their siblings get a small piece. Some people think it’s fair for them to park in a handicapped spot in the parking lot even though they haven’t needed it since their cast came off. It’s easy to fall into the trap of defining justice based on what we want. But in reality, justice has very little to do with you. It’s all about others.
The Church tells us that justice is the desire to give others (including God) what is due them. No where in that definition does it say anything about what is due to ourselves. Interesting isn’t it?
Chech it out for yourselves. http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/pt3sect1chpt1art7.shtml#1807
What is due God is praise, glory and worship. It is what we are called to do in everyday of our faith lives. Most people call this religion.
What is due to our neighbor is more complex. We are called to respect the rights of others and work to promote harmonious and equal relationships that promote the common good. That means concerning ourselves with our neighbor by seeking to understand them and protect their rights. It does not mean that everyone is entitled to a BMW or a McMansion. Entitlement is not the same as justice. Justice means that all have the right to free access to the things necessary for life.
How is taking care of the earth respecting others’ rights? Because it is the right of all people to live in a place that is safe and promotes their physical health. Taking care of the earth certainly does those things. The Church has a phrase which summarizes this point. It is the “universal destination of goods”. This idea states that creation was intended for the use of the whole of mankind. In other words, it’s destination is all of us. Interfering with a person or persons access to what is destined by God to be theirs is an affront to justice not to mention an affront to God. Who are we to say what people should or should not have access to clean water or air or even to food, shelter or the ability to provide for their families?
Living the virtue of justice enables us to work toward the good of others and put their needs and the needs of mankind above our own desires. If you live this virtue it will permeate all aspects of your life including your stewardship of creation. Truly, how can you waste a resource such as water when you have the knowledge that there are many people in this world without access to it? How can you NOT be affected by the plight of the poor in the world when you know that it is your responsibility to care for them?
Go be justice!
Next Week: Fortitude: Muy fuerte!