Virtues in Action

This is the sixth in a seven-part series on the seven moral and theological virtues listed in the Catechism. They are faith, hope, charity (love), prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance. The series will take a closer look at how these virtues are tested in this life and how we can grow in these virtues.

We often look at justice from the perspective of someone else’s life, instead of looking at justice in our own lives and how the Holy Spirit is calling us to justice. In our reflections on justice, let us look internally to see how the Holy Spirit is working in our own souls to help us grow in justice through seeing how God’s justice is working in our lives and also how we can act justly toward God.

In C.S. Lewis’ “The Horse and His Boy,” the characters Aravis and Shasta are riding in haste to warn a town of an impending attack. On horseback, they find themselves being chased by a lion. Both horses and children are fearful, with the horses galloping at full speed. Aravis’ horse is slower than Shasta’s and she falls behind Shasta. Shasta, desperate to help, jumps off his horse and sprints back to Aravis to help. He arrives too late; the lion springs forward and claws Aravis’ back, wounding her. The lion then leaves in another direction. When the children later meet this lion, they learn that he is Aslan, the protector of the lands. Shasta inquires of him why he hurt Aravis. Although Aslan’s only response is a rebuke that Shasta is not entitled to Aravis’ personal story, the lion later reveals to Aravis that he wounded her just as she had caused her servant to be wounded earlier in the story. Aravis had to know the pain she had caused her servant so that she could learn to be a better person.

This metaphorical portrayal of justice rings true for us as well. If we pay close attention in our own lives, we can see how justice is at work. God sometimes challenges us in ways that help purify our souls and grow closer to him. These challenging experiences are often unpleasant, but if we are willing to reflect on them, we can often see God’s call to justice within our challenges. We must take care not to fall into thinking that God is a vindictive God, punishing us for the sake of punishment.

Like Aslan in the story, God wants us to learn and grow from our mistakes, and he wants to help us in this healing. We also need to take care when reflecting on our challenges not to get caught up in thinking that every trial that befalls us is because of something that we have done wrong. Not every suffering is a result of our sin. A biblical example of this is seen in John 9:2: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” We can easily get lost in this thinking, which is not helpful. But when we can see a connection to something that we have done, we would do well to take advantage of the opportunity that God has given to us.

We often think of justice from our earthly perspectives. If someone commits a crime, they should be punished. When a crime goes unpunished or is insufficiently punished, we become upset and cry out about injustice. This is the focus that we should adjust. We are not entitled to others’ personal stories. We do not get to know why they experience the obstacles and challenges that befall them, and when we focus on others, we miss the application of justice in our own lives.

We have a just God, and one of the ways that he demonstrates his justice is by giving us opportunities here on earth to work out our salvation. If we are paying attention, we can see the bountiful mercies God offers us through justice, which often occur in the challenges of our lives. Having been receivers of God’s mercy and justice, we then grow in justice by showing justice back to God.

When God has been merciful to us or shown us justice, how do we thank him? Do we simply say thank you, or do we give just thanks for our gifts? When we are faced with a trial and we can find justice in the trial, are we accepting of the challenge or do we feel sorry for ourselves?

In the time of suffering and trial, it is very easy to get lost in the darkness of the suffering and wonder where God is and why we have been left to such frustration, pain or horrors. But God is with us in the suffering, calling us to a deeper relationship with him. May God grant you insight into the challenges of life so that you may grow in justice and love for God.

Andi Bochte