I, the NAME, have called you for the victory of justice, grasped you by the hand; formed you, and set you as a Brit of the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, bring prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness. Reading from, “The Baptism of the Lord”, Isaiah 42 The reading from Deuteronomy 4:5-8
I teach you the customs and precedents as the NAME, my God, has commanded me, that you may guard them in the land you are entering to possess. Observe them carefully, for this is your wisdom and discernment in the sight of the peoples, who will hear of all these statutes and say, “This great nation is truly a wise and discerning people.” What great nation is there that has gods so close to it as the NAME, our God, is to us whenever we call upon him? What great nation has customs and precedents, just as this whole Torah/teaching I set before you this day?
God calls us to be the example to the world. This passage also calls to mind what this nation used to be:
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she with silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Both ancient Israel and the US were founded upon a concept of justice as remembering what it was like to be there, wherever “Over there,” was for our ancestors, and our rescue to over here. God calls us to the victory of Justice, but what does justice mean?
Charlton T. Lewis, and Charles Short in ,”A Latin Dictionary,” write how Pliny relates how “Jus,” “Justice,” comes from the juice of the purple fish. The same dictionary then relates jus is that which is binding or obligatory; that which is binding by its nature.” Just as the juice of the purple fish is binding, pardon the pun, so is justice.
St. Aurelius Ambrosius defines justice in his work, “On The Duties of the Clergy,” Chapter 28, section 130, “Justice has to do with the society of the human race, and the community at large. What holds society together is divided into two parts—justice and good-will, which also is called liberality and kindness. Justice seems to me the loftier, liberality the more pleasing, of the two. The one gives judgment, the other shows goodness…Philosophers considered it consonant with justice that one should treat common, that is, public property as public, and private as private. This is not even in accord with nature, nature has poured forth all things for all men for common use. God has ordered all things to be produced, so that there should be food in common to all, and that the earth should be a common possession for all. Nature, therefore, has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for a few…
St. Aurelius Ambrosius then relates how Moses wrote: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26 These philosophers have learned from our writings that all things were made subject to man, and, therefore, they think that all things were produced also for man’s sake… That man was made for the sake of man we find stated also in the books of Moses, when the Lord says: “It is not good that man should be alone, let us make him an helper for him.” Genesis 2:18…
In accordance with the will of God and the union of nature, we ought to be of mutual help one to the other, and to vie with each other in doing duties, to lay all our advantages to bring help one to the other from a feeling of devotion or of duty, by giving money, or by doing something, in some way or other; the charm of human fellowship may ever grow sweeter among us.”
Just as Jus, the juice of the purple fish, is binding by nature, so is our nature as social animals binding upon us to help one another. Tommaso d’Aquino, OP (1225 – 7 March 1274), writes in his summation of Theology, “Ambrosius says (De Office of the Clergy. i): “Justice has to do with the fellowship of mankind. For the notion of fellowship is divided into two parts, justice and beneficence, also called liberality or kind-heartedness.” Therefore liberality pertains to justice.” Second Part, Question 117, of Liberality, Fifth Article, On the Contrary.
“The giving of beneficence and mercy proceeds from a man having a certain affection towards the person to whom he gives: this giving belongs to charity or friendship. The giving of liberality arises from a person being affected in a certain way towards money; he desires it not nor loves it: when it is fitting he gives it not only to his friends but also to those whom he knows not.” IBIB, Reply 3. What separates charity from liberality is related to whether or not the giver knows the recipient he is giving to. Liberality/justice, is giving to the recipient whether or not he knows him.
It is this sense of giving that defines the community of Isaiah 42, Deuteronomy 4, the grand words on the New Colossus, the writings of St. Aurelius Ambrosius, and St. Tommaso d’Aquino. There is no room here for tough love, or saying, “This is mine, and the state has no right to take it to feed the poor,” and no room for the concept of property as a private matter and therefore liberality being voluntary.
The beginnings of Penance and how this relates to Justice also quotes St. Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis as relating how Justice relates to an orchestra. Justice as about making the music of harmony and concord. Again, there is no room here for “This is mine,” and therefore liberality is inherently voluntary, or I don’t have to give, so I will not. We need to remember, in Hebrew there is no word for “Mine,” “Yours,” or “His.” All they can say in the Semitic languages is, “It is to me,” or “it is to you,” or “It is to him.” It is “To me,’ presumes a “To me, for what,” “To you for what,” and “To him, for what.” God is the ultimate owner of all and he gives for a purpose. Like any employer, when the job is not done, the employer is free to fire, and then hire someone who will do the job.