Tuesday of the Fourth Week of Advent
The Greeks had a goddess named Nemesis. She was the god of retribution – specifically pouring out wrath for human hubris against the gods. Nemesis has many attributes to describe how she works: scales to weigh deeds against punishment, a scourge to chastise, and a bridle to rein in the self-exalted. She is the one who lures Narcissus to a pool to become perpetually infatuated – and sadly, ensnared – with his own reflection.
Should we as Christians desire retribution? The Catechism makes it clear there will be a divine retribution in the particular and final judgments (CCC #1021-22). St. Thomas Aquinas even said the elect of heaven will look down with glee on those who justly suffer damnation! Indeed, justice is a good thing. We probably think such things lack mercy. G.K. Chesterton speaks to this guilt: “For children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.”
So how will our God who metes out retribution settle scores in this world too? The Scriptures say God allows rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Mt. 5:45) and that a freak accident like a tower falling on people of various states of grace (Lk. 13:4) can occur on the Lord’s watch. Still, Mary proclaims the greatness of the Father who, “has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” This is hardly a call for redistributionism or a proletariat revolution. Rather, the Virgin recognizes that throughout Salvation History God chose the small, the poor, and the weak to show His glory. She who was of no consequence to the mighty surpasses them all in majesty because of being the mother of the King of Nations, the keystone of the Church. Thus, we can work for justice though we often do not live to see its vindication; we can suffer and have the virtue of hope; we can be as one “having nothing and yet possessing all things” (2 Cor. 6:10).
Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB