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Silvano Fausti
Gesuita, biblista e scrittore
Helping God to do justice
“On one thing, I agree with the Muslims: the death penalty. We must help God to implement justice on earth. Some people object saying: doing thus, we risk to strike the innocent. Do we want to be more than God? He makes the innocent perish and doesn’t discriminate between victim and executioner. Both are condemned to death, at different times. We can’t afford feeling pity. That belongs only to God, the Lord of life.”
Gian Giacomo Zucchi

Your considerations demand non-trivial answers. The God/death and God/justice relationship is understood in different ways, some of which are ambiguous and perverted.

The Bible says that “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the destruction of the living.” He is a “lover of life” and “it was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world” (Wisdom 1:13; 11:26; 2:24). What is life? What is death? Human beings, limited as they are by time and space, can live out their limits in a “divine” or “diabolical” way. If they love, the space limit becomes a place of communion with others and begets life; if they don’t love, it becomes a place of divisions and produces death. Similarly, the time limit, for those who love, is communion with the infinitely Other, beginning and end of life; for the egoist, instead, it is death: wherever he ends, everything comes to an end too! “The sting of death is sin” (1 Corinthians 15:56), i.e., egoism: the fear of death makes us commit every type of evil, in the vain effort to save ourselves (Hebrews 2:14f).

God is not the almighty boss of everything – and moreover not the legislator, judge and executioner who kills everybody! Such are, or would like to be, the earthly bosses. Such a type of god is what the serpent suggested to Eve and Adam: Satan, the model of the “lords of death.” The only power of God is to give life, not to take it away.

Thus, God’s justice is not like ours: His law is love and His judgment is forgiveness. His justice will be to die on the cross on behalf of those who crucify Him! The punishment of evil doesn’t come from Him, but from the harm we cause to each other. Egoism makes hell of the earth. But God came to free us from hell, sending His own Son who heals us of the false image of God and man. Giving life to His lost brethren, Jesus has revealed the truth about God and man. Christ died to save sinners. “I myself am the greatest of them,” says Saint Paul (1 Timothy 1:15).

God’s justice is to justify and save us. He wants “everyone to be saved and reach the full knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). And the “truth” is that God is Mother/Father who loves all as His children. Therefore, human beings are all brothers/sisters called to mutual love the way they are loved. This is why Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Thus, we become children of that God who is Mercy; and we help Him to accomplish His justice in this world (Luke 6:20-38!). If one wanted to help God to do justice by killing the wicked ones, in the end, he would be the only survivor, the executioner who has eliminated all his brethren. And God would be left with the choice of living eternally with an executioner or become Himself the executioner of the final executioner…

The abbot of the Trappists of Tibhirin, foreseeing his killing at the hands of the Algerian Muslim fundamentalists, writes in his farewell testament (in French “Adieu” means both “Farewell” and “To God”): “With my death, I will be able, God willing, to immerse my view into God the Father’s view, in order to contemplate His children belonging to Islam as God sees them, completely enlightened by Christ’s glory, fruits of His passion, endowed with the gift of the Spirit, whose secret joy will always be to establish communion and to re-establish likeness, playing with differences.” And speaking to his unknown killer, he says: “I will see you, my friend of the last moment, who didn’t know what you were doing. Yes, even for you I want to say this thank you for all my life and this Adieu that you had foreseen. And may we find each other, blessed thieves, in Paradise, that is, if God wants, God who is the Father, of us both. Amen!”

© FCSF – Popoli, 3 gennaio 2011