There is no god besides you who have the care of all… For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. (Wis 12:13, 16)
Even if one were to rule a nation with all just laws and administer those laws with perfect equity so that only what was right and good was dispensed to every person through the executive power and through the courts, there would still be injustice without the might to oblige what is good and right since man is so often apt to err and sin. In our pursuit of justice-for-all we can never be so foolish as to think that man can regulate his own communal behavior without enforcement of the law. “Govern thyself” is a fine maxim for moral behavior but one ill-equipped to manage a large state.
Promoters of the natural law do not declare that “might is the source of justice” as does the writer of the Book of Wisdom. If might is the source of justice then physical power, not natural right, would rule the law. Catholics believe in “right over might” yet they still understand the proper use of might in maintaining was is just and right. The author of the Book Wisdom also understands this by stating that God has care over all. This means that God’s might it perfectly applied in just judgements because he cares for all that he has created and wills that none of it should suffer loss or punishment. Yet it does. Humans suffer especially because of the misuse of their God-given freedom.
God is patient and lenient with us. St. Peter tells us so: “[God] is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pt:3:9). That is, God’s leniency is given for the benefit of our salvation, but never so we may abuse his love and justice. Even in matters of human justice, clemency should be given to those who express sincere sorrow over their wrongdoing and the will to amend their ways. Yet, leniency always risks future suffering. Even Our Lord concedes that His leniency may cause the suffering of others or else as in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus would not allow the weeds to grow in the midst of the wheat. (Mt 13:28-29)
For this 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time we place on our bulletin cover a heartfelt work by the English Romantic John Everett Millais entitled, Order of Release (1853). Here is a Scottish prisoner being released by a written order from an English jail. The man released has an injured arm. Did he resist a just arrest? Or was he mistreated by his captors? We cannot say. We know that both these scenarios occur. Millais paints the same leaning posture by jailor and prisoner; the former inspecting the order; the latter seeking his wife. The man’s reception is interesting. The canine is excited, but notice that his nose points to the union of hands. The child sleeps as if this was an ordinary event, but may be worn out by crying. The wife is stalwart. She has come on business. Her face, not focused on the British soldier, indicates both family and national pride and the effort it took to gain the release.
What we have here is a scene resulting from leniency. Every act of leniency is best when it brings about a reunion of love. This is especially the case with the leniency of the Most High.
-Steve Guillotte, Director of Pastoral Services