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Fr Billy Swan

Dear friends. If you look closely at the next news story that comes from the Special Criminal Court in Dublin, you will notice the figure of a woman holding a scales on the wall outside the court. From ancient times, scales were used to measure the weight of goods in return for the money they were worth. From the time of the Romans and even before in the Middle East, the image of scales has been the image of justice. We see that in the first reading today from the prophet Amos. Last week, the Gospels in particular were rich with the theme of mercy. Today, the Word of God draws our attention to the importance of justice.

In the first reading, the prophet Amos is furious because the greed of some has caused the poor to be deprived of justice. They have, as Amos puts it, ‘tampered with the scales’. In speaking up, Amos was one of many prophets who risked their safety to defend the poor and those deprived of justice. For any religious people of their time, the prophets challenged them that if they trampled on the poor or ignored them then God would act on their behalf and see justice done. From the life of Jesus, we see this in action. The Lord was born into poverty and throughout his life, he showed a special love for the poor, the outcast and marginalised. With his parables and teaching he proclaimed that both mercy and justice are central in the Kingdom of God. Mary sings in her Magnificat that ‘the Lord pulls down the mighty from their thrones and raises the lowly’. But he also is ‘merciful on those who fear him’. With his death as an innocent man, Jesus subjected himself to the greatest injustice of all. But with his resurrection, justice triumphed over injustice, truth over lies and love over hate.

We Christians have received his Spirit of mercy but also his Spirit of justice. We are called to share in his passion to put things right or to balance the scales again. If I am doing well but others are deprived, as a Christian, I can never be fully at peace. Like Christ, I must carry this spirit of justice into all areas of life – from filling out my tax returns, to telling the truth, to fair play on the sporting field, to an interest in the laws of our country and how wealth is distributed fairly – all of these areas of great importance and cry out for the contribution of Christians with a sharp social conscience who are willing to fight for a better and more just world.

We are inspired by the saints of justice whose love for Jesus Christ drove them to change the course of history. These are the witnesses of authentic faith which is never comfortable or completely personal but always involves a deep desire to leave this earth somehow better than we found it. I think here of Blessed Oscar Romero, St Teresa of Calcutta, Dorothy Day, St John Paul II, Thomas More and Martin Luther King. Here in Ireland we think of Peter McVerry, St. Stanislaus, the work of St Vincent de Paul and so many others who not only try to help the poor but to ask why are they poor in the first place. When it comes to Ireland, the words of James Connolly also shake us out of our comfort: ‘the one who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for Ireland and can yet pass unmoved through our streets and witness all the wrong and suffering…without burning to end it, is, in my opinion, a fraud and a liar in his heart’.

I conclude with the words of Pope Francis who said that ‘A Christian who in these times is not a revolutionary is no Christian’. God wants to put things right, raise the poor and balance the scales through us. If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when? Join the revolution - today.


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