An appetite for justice

“Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Mt 25:40

The Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre de Caussade wrote his small book ” The Sacrament of the Present Moment” in the 18th century. In it he encourages us to read the ‘book of life’ as the daily unfolding of the holy scriptures of your life experienced in God’s presence.

The murders in the Christchurch mosques on March 15th require us to read this book especially carefully and prayerfully and to mourn as an act of compassion and solidarity – because this is how we embody the life of Christ. This is how we partner with the Spirit of Christ incarnate in us. And this is how we witness to the kingdom of God, among us and within us, by participating fully in the world of hurt with a heart of hope.

But this is not all. In the light of our unfolding lives, the next beatitude also calls us to read the book of life with an ear for those unheard, an eye for those unseen, a heart for those uncared for.

This is the translation you are probably familiar with:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be satisfied

Matthew 5: 12

Righteousness is another one of those words with theological baggage in English, but in the Hebrew tradition, this word has connections with justice as right action flowing from active compassion. The hunger for righteousness isn’t purely about personal interest or justification, but collective and communal flourishing.

The Resources

With this in mind, spend some time with this passage from the prophet Isaiah which is probably familiar to you, so if it helps to hear it freshly, change the translation or click the ‘add parallel’ button on the menu to see two or more translations side by side.

Instead of the usual lectio method of slow, attentive reading, try dipping in to this one, like drinking water throughout the day.

To do this you might write it out and stick it on your computer monitor/above the sink/wherever so you can glance over at it during the day and see what refreshment it offers you. You might try reading it while consciously thirsty, and then try reading it while sipping from a glass of water. Or a glass of wine (or milk).

What happens if you read it and replace David’s name with yours, with your grandparent’s name, with New Zealand, Humanity, or All Things?

You could also record yourself reading it as a voice memo and then listen to it at various times through the day and over the days.

The Prompts

Lent is a time to recognise that, hungry and thirsty, we come to God empty handed as well as a time for reflecting on what we choose instead of God’s Love and how that injures us all.

Where is the invitation in this passage landing for you this week and in the season of Lent?

Invitations are intended to evoke a response, a willing and glad acceptance even, but we are complex beings and our responses are usually multi-faceted. What are the layers of feeling, sensing and thinking you are aware of as you respond?

To explore these, you could take three sheets of paper and write at the top something along the lines of:

‘I hear this invitation and I feel…’;

‘The sense in my body from this invitation is…’;

‘This invitation makes me think…’

Listen to what is happening within you as you sink in to each feeling centre in turn and then record what you notice with words, pictures, colours, shapes, charts or diagrams. You will likely find one sheet of paper is easily filled while the other two require more time and deeper listening…

The Practices

The subjective life

Questions of justice often arouse fears that are hard to placate. There is cruelty, violence and greed in our world, and in the human heart, but the justice of God is relationally liberating and restorative.

What if we understood righteousness as the affirmation of the God-given I-ness of all creation to be the subject and not the object in relationship?

To practice this, we need to keep an awareness of the fullness of the Other – whatever they may be: chicken, cow or pig; partner, parent or child; friend, neighbour or colleague; water, air or earth; driver, cyclist or pedestrian; muslim, hindu or christian… when we think of people, the planet or creatures in terms of generalised objects to use or obstacles to move we are reducing or rejecting the I-ness of the Other and robbing ourselves of the joy of authentic relationship.

Take some time to allow an Other to come to your awareness where your relationship is I-it….there may be many who suggest themselves to you, but pause until you are sure which one you are ready to be wholly open to the fullness of the I-Thou relationship and then consider ways to engage with the I-ness of the Other. Listening, curiosity, delight, appreciation of uniqueness and a willingness to be surprised may be helpful places to start.

Once you have discerned where to begin shifting your awareness of the Other as subject rather than object, you can adapt some of the practices from previous weeks to help you stay open to your new perspective. A daily waymarker might prompt you, a breath prayer return you, a journal conversation re-orient you, re-arranging the art or the furniture in your house might nudge you to remember the internal shift you are committing to…

Cleanse and refresh

Water is a good prompt into awareness both as a way to wash off the old and a way to energise the new.

  • Pour a glass or fill a bottle of water in the morning and sip from it during the day not because you are thirsty, but let each sip be a prayer for justice.
  • As you wash your hands before you eat, maybe also splash some water on your face…what has been clinging on to you that you can rinse off … what can you see that you didn’t see before…?
  • Make a play list and sing in the shower, or soak in the bath as you listen…what are the songs the water draws you to? What are the stories you want to hear, want to tell about them? This is lovely. This is lively. This is well loved…so many choices…

Breath prayer

This is one for traffic lights, walks, random moments in the day, in bed when you wake up, as you wait for sleep….following the natural breathing rhythm of inhale, exhale, pause, say silently within: Flowing in; Dryness out; Filled.

As you breath it, this can be a prayer for yourself, for others, for the world.

One more thing…

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the enormity of injustice, the dark corners of our own hearts, the brokenness of our relationships and institutions. It’s easy to lose sight of the light we are and the Light of Christ within us. When we let that Light inspire compassion and passion in our action, then hope shines – even if it’s a cup of cold water offered and received in recognition of our shared humanity and God given worth.

And on that note, if you are looking for something tangible and practical to join in with, last year I pledged my 50th birthday to Charity Water

Every cent they raise goes directly to getting clean water to people who do not have it, and there is an amazing story behind this organisation, which you can read about, or hear founder Scott Harrison tell on Rob Bell’s podcast.

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