If justice is a matter of someone getting what they deserve, then I’ll take a big dose of mercy instead, God, and thank you very much.
Sadly, it appears we’re in store for justice in this country, paying a price for “The Bachelor,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” and the fact that more than 6 million people tuned into each episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice” as recently as last year.
I’m afraid what we have seen from the Presidential campaign for the last several months will continue for the next nine months. And even though Pope Francis anointed this a Jubilee Year of Mercy, I have my reservations if that’s going to mean anything for the United States of America as an overall nation “under God, with liberty and justice for all.” We say we’re “under God,” but I seriously wonder many times.
And that “justice for all” part has me concerned.
“It is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly as in the day.”
Surely you recall Pope Francis standing inside the U.S. Capitol building last September and addressing a joint session of Congress – the first Catholic Bishop of Rome ever to do that. This paragraph resonated with me then and rings just as clearly now.
“We are asked to summon the courage and the intelligence to resolve today’s many geopolitical and economic crises. Even in the developed world, the effects of unjust structures and actions are all too apparent. Our efforts must aim at restoring hope, righting wrongs, maintaining commitments, and thus promoting the well-being of individuals and of peoples. We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
Courage and intelligence. . . .
This in a nation where more than 57 million babies have been victims of abortion the last 42 years. This in a nation where more than 1,400 people have been executed and almost 3,000 currently are waiting on death row, even though 150 people have been released from death row due to evidence of their innocence the last decade and that prevailing opinion holds the threat of a death sentence doesn’t deter homicide rates.
Unjust structures and actions. . . .
In that address to Congress, Pope Francis told most of the key leaders in our nation: “The Golden Rule also reminds us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development.”
Hope and commitment. Promoting the well-being of people. . . .
This in a nation that has lost the lives of more than 6,700 men and women in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, with another 50,000 wounded, 22 veterans committing suicide each day and as much as 20 percent of all veterans returning from those wars suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. And we can’t ignore the fact that estimates go as high as 2 million citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan — including untold innocent civilians — have been killed because of the War on Terror since September 11, 2001.
Togetherness. Fraternity and solidarity. . . .
This in a nation with about 47 million people living below the poverty line – 15 percent of all Americans and almost 22 percent of Americans under the age of 18. The poverty line is drawn at about $24,000 for a family of four. About that same number of Americans lives without reliable access to an adequate supply of affordable, nutritious food. Meanwhile, a year ago the Spectrem Group reported that a half-million new Americans became millionaires in 2014 alone and that 10.1 million households in our country had investable assets of at least $1 million.
Generosity. The common good. . . .
This in a nation where adults spent about $12 billion on surgical and non-surgical cosmetic procedures two years ago. This in a nation where people spent more than $70 billion on lottery tickets in 2014, more than the $63 billion Americans spent on sports tickets, books, video games, movie tickets and music combined. What’s more, this in a nation that spends another $100 billion gambling in casinos every year.
Consider that … there were more than 9 million people who tuned into the Season 4 premiere of “Jersey Shore,” there have been almost 20 seasons of “The Bachelor” and about 30 seasons of “Survivor,” and there actually were audiences waiting for the next showings of “Big Brother,” “Toddlers and Tiaras” and “Teen Mom.”
Consider that … the American Society of Addiction has added pornography to its list and considers it difficult to cure in part because of easy access. Some studies show that 50 percent of men look at porn regularly, primarily online, but also that 33 percent of all people looking at internet porn are women. Consider that . . . more than 10,000 people died of heroin overdoses in 2014, 2,000 more than the previous year and over 8,000 more than 2001.
Again in that address to Congress, Pope Francis said: “When the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must not repeat the sins and the errors of the past. We must resolve now to live as nobly and as justly as possible, as we educate new generations not to turn their back on our ‘neighbors’ and everything around us.”
Consider that … recent studies indicate 4 percent of Americans question the existence of God and 3 percent don’t believe in God, but a cumulative 22 percent additional Americans don’t associate with any religion and less than 40 percent of Americans attend church services weekly or near-weekly.
“When you turn back to him with all your heart, to do what is right before him, then he will turn back to you, and no longer hide his face from you. So now consider what he has done for you, and praise him with full voice. … Turn back, you sinners! Do the right before him: perhaps he may look with favor upon you and show you mercy.”
I pray for mercy upon us. Yet I am alarmed by the prospects of justice. What do we get as choices en route to our ballot for U.S. President? I fear this: Utter embarrassment. Some things we have heard from Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Sanders, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Rubio and all those others in what has turned into America’s Favorite Reality Show:
Total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States. … Accusations of Mexico “not sending their best,” but rather people riddled with problems, rapists, bringing drugs and crime. … Of fighting ISIS by “blowing up every single inch (with) nothing left,” or by using “overwhelming force, kill the enemy, and then get the heck out.” … Building a wall and tripling border patrol to keep immigrants out of the United States. … Improving the country’s economy by creating “more millionaires. I think we need to grow more millionaires.” … On fighting terrorists, we should “bring back waterboarding and I would bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”
Frankly, I don’t know what to make of these men and women verbally sparring with each other as they tussle for attention and polling numbers and votes. I look for a statesman or stateswoman. I listen for unifying ideas. I scour their attitudes for the potential to gain support from both parties (and the factions within those parties), to rally support from all people in the nation, to serve as a strong yet compassionate commander-in-chief.
What I see, hear and read are men and women whose weaknesses far outweigh their strengths as far as qualifying for this job goes, who appear more interested in being the last survivor on the island, to be the one who gets the final rose. Sometimes, I fear, we are watching one of those reality shows on which the contestants care more about winning the game – and embarrassing the others in ways that betray good manners – and less about knowing what to do if they actually would win.
This may be our own fault, you know. We’re getting what we deserve in a nation that would rather hear “You’re fired” instead of “You’re forgiven,” a nation that is embracing socialism more enthusiastically than social justice, a nation that is more interested in the oil and cheap labor in other countries than in lending a hand to people fleeing danger in other countries. This is what we reap after sowing so much hatred, greed, ill will toward people of faith and selfishness.
On Ash Wednesday, the first Scripture selection at Catholic Mass came from the Book of Joel. It concluded with this passage:
Between the porch and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep, And say, “Spare, O LORD, your people, and make not your heritage a reproach, with the nations ruling over them! Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Then the LORD was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.
We can try that, I guess: Weeping and begging God to spare us from the impending disaster. Maybe he will choose mercy over justice. He is our last hope, which is okay because, after all, He is our best hope.
But it wouldn’t hurt if we all donned in sackcloth and ashes to show we are willing to repent and change.