Pope Benedict XVI's Dream and the Natural Thirst for Justice
Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again
The Good News of Easter is that the puzzle which Plato and Cicero struggled to solve is resolved for us, in fact has been revealed to us. Not, however, by myth, and not by dream. But by a brute historical reality that happened once in history, but which Catholics repeat anew at every Mass, and which Christ's faithful announce at the Memorial Acclamation: Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again.
Even in our daily lives we suffer, or perhaps are the cause of, more or less petty or more or less serious injustices that frequently go unfixed. Adultery, rape, murder, abortion, theft, fraud, and on and on. These present an insurmountable enough problem. But if we turn to the massive injustices within our historical memory, especially if we concretize them, the problem is infinitely insurmountable. We approach the threshold of despair.
Who shall give justice to Moses Roper, the mulatto slave who was traded from master to master seventeen times, was nearly flogged to death with 200 lashes of the whip, but eventually escaped to write his autobiography? And what about all the other victims of the African slave trade?
Who shall give justice to Sadako Sasaki, the two-year old who was blown out of the window of her home, exposed to radiation in Hiroshima, miraculously survived, only to die of leukemia ten years later? And what about the 50,000 or so of her fellow townspeople who suffered death moments after the "Little Boy" was dropped out of the hatch of the Enola Gay?
Who shall give justice to my great great uncle Ludwig Brügel, a historian known for his book Geschichte der österreichischen sozialdemokratie, who died in the Concentration Camp at Theresienstadt on August 30, 1942, for the mere reason-which is no reason-that he was a Jew? And what about all numerous millions of fellow victims of Hitler's inhuman Shoa, Jewish and non-Jewish?
Who shall give justice to-to pick a name at random-Brandon Buchanan, a young equities trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, who died at the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the victim of a few Muslim barbarians with Allahu Akbar on the brain?
Even if it were possible to give justice to these individuals and the hundreds of millions like them in the history of man, from whom would we exact it? Who could pay the debt? Upon whom could it rightly be imposed?
In the light of uncorrected and uncorrectable injustice, and man's intrinsic thirst for justice, many ask the question of whether the world is well-made. A world full of injustice would seem not well-made.
Some therefore accuse God of injustice in making the world. Or they deny God exists. In either event, the matter becomes an irresolvable surd. If the world is not well-made by God, if God is unjust, or if God does not exist, then we have no reason to complain of injustice, and the desire for justice is vain. Without a just God, all is vanity, which is to say all is absurd. Then shut yourself in your house and read Camus or Sartre, and end your miserable life by putting a bullet through your brain if you are man enough.
But if we resist the false lull of absurdity which leads to despair, we shall have to come to terms that there must be justice if the world is well-made by God, which means there must be just judgment. And we come to the quandary that in this world this just judgment is nowhere to be found.
Those who have believed in a benevolent God--Pagans included--have resisted absurdity and cannot believe the world was not well-made. In the face of injustice in this world, they have yearned for, dreamed of, guessed at, even hoped for a life beyond this one, and a just judgment in that life beyond this one as the most plausible answer.
Moved by this quandary--belief in a world-well-made with the fact of plenty of injustice--Plato ends his dialogue The Republic with the "Myth of Er." In explaining justice, the protagonist Socrates ultimately has recourse to myth. He tells his interlocutor Glaucon about the testimony of a soldier named Er, son of Armenios of Pamphyilia. Er, he relates, died in battle with a number of his fellows, and these bodies were gathered ten days later to be burned in a funeral pyre.
Er revives from his death, and tells the survivors of his journey to the afterlife. He tells them that there are judges in the afterlife who issue just judgment. The just carry their good deeds in front of them and take the rightward path to heaven. The unjust carry their wrongdoing like burdens on their back as they are made to walk the leftward path into the ...
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