By Mikki Sciba
What is Justice?
Have you ever owed someone something? If you have, this means you have an obligation or responsibility to repay him or give him his due. Did you also know that you have a responsibility to give God and others their due? Yes, you owe God and others something. I’m not talking about money but about the responsibilities you have to God and other people. Justice is the virtue of giving each person what is owed to him. Practicing the virtue of justice helps you give to God what belongs to God and give to others what belongs to them.
What do you owe? Before you keep reading, think of some things you owe to God and others. (Here is a printable worksheet to write these down.)
In the Bible, someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22: 36-39). God commands us to love him and others, so we owe God and others our love. Practicing justice towards God and others is a way to love and live out these two greatest commandments. Justice that people owe to God is called the virtue of religion. God has given us everything and wants what is good for us. We could never repay him in full for all he has done but we should do our best to try. Giving God his due includes praying, thanking him, serving him, obeying his commands, and worshiping him. God made all people in his image and likeness. Each person is God’s creation and deserves to be treated in the way God wants him or her to be treated. God loves everyone and we are called to love others as God does. We can show our love and concern for others by practicing the virtues of generosity, respect, honesty, and kindness.
The Virtues Under Justice
Below are some of the virtues that flow from justice. They speak of things people owe God and others. Take some time to read over these and think about ways to practice them in your life. (Print these out.)
Prayer is your communication with God. God loves you deeply and wants a relationship with you. Prayer is how you talk with and listen to God. It is important to pray everyday! Some things to include in your daily prayers are thanking God for all he has given you, saying; “I’m sorry” when you have sinned; praying for yourself and others; and making time to be still and quiet to listen to God. There are also many prayers that have been a part of our Catholic faith for hundreds of years. Use the printout “Prayer: A Practice of Justice” to help you in your prayer life. You can also keep track of prayers that you already know and prayers you want to memorize.
Gratitude is having a thankful heart, because you realize everything is a gift. You are called to show gratitude to God. God has given you and all people the greatest gift of himself through Jesus. Jesus continues to give himself through the Eucharist. Give thanks to God for this great gift! You are also called to show gratitude to your parents, your families, and your friends. You can do this by simply smiling and saying, "Thank you!" It is important to recognize your blessings and give God thanks for them. Can you name some things God has given you? Use the “Gratitude Journal” as a guide to help you count your blessings.
Obedience is doing what has been asked of you by God or someone else who has authority, like a parent or teacher. You can practice obedience by following the law, listening to your parents, doing your chores, completing your homework, following the Ten Commandments, and going to Mass every Sunday. This can be very hard and requires practice! Practice obedience by obeying the first time you are asked to do something. A great example of obedience to God's will is Mary when she said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). You can use this verse as a prayer to help you become more obedient to God and his will for you.
Piety is also called reverence. This is the respect we owe and show to God. Some ways to show reverence to God are to kneel when praying, kissing the Bible or a crucifix, folding your hands when you pray, genuflecting towards the tabernacle in Catholic churches, or bowing your head when you hear the name “Jesus.” We also show piety when we worship God. Since Mass is the highest form of worship, one of the best ways to practice piety is to worship properly at Mass. Go to Mass every Sunday, wear your Sunday best, read the readings ahead of time, and participate by singing, responding, and listening. Use the "Practicing Piety" worksheet to help you work on the virtue of piety.
Generosity means having a giving heart. Generous people share what they have. You can share your things like your toys, clothes, food, or money with others. You can also share your time others. Spend time with someone else by playing with them or reading them a story. Be generous with your time at home by helping your siblings or parents around the house. Be generous with God by giving him your time in prayer and service.
Respect others. Everyone is made in God's image and deserves to be treated in ways that are right and good. Respecting someone means you recognize his or her dignity as a child of God. You can show respect for others by saying kind things about them, listening to them, praying with and for them. Some things that go against the virtue of respect would be bullying, interrupting people, laughing at others, or harming others. Avoid these behaviors and work on seeing Jesus in every person.
Honesty means truthfulness. God calls us to tell the truth and live the truth.To avoid telling lies and speaking the truth is good, but it is also really important to live an honest and truthful life. This means acting like Jesus would act. Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Since Jesus is the truth you should speak what he speaks and live how he lives. Some ways to practice honesty are to always tell the truth, admit when you have done something wrong, do not make excuses for bad behavior, avoid spreading rumors about others, and do honest work (do not cheat on school work).
Kindness is having a gentle and helpful attitude. Being kind means being aware of the needs of others and doing something about it. A kind person is concerned with the well-being of another. Some simple examples of practicing kindness are smiling at people, letting others go before you in line, cheering up someone who is sad, helping with chores around the house, opening the door for someone, and writing a letter to a family member, friend or teacher. Learning the corporal works of mercy and practicing them is also a great way to practice the virtue of kindness.
The Bible and Justice
Look up the following Bible passages that mention justice, write them down, and try to memorize them. (Here is a printable worksheet to write these down.)
Prayer for Justice
Lord, I was to be a just person. I want to give you and others what they deserve. You told us the greatest two commandments were to love God above all else and to love our neighbor. Help me to practice the virtue of justice by loving You through my prayer, piety, gratitude, and obedience. Please give me the grace to treat my neighbor justly and love them by being generous, respectful, honest, and kind. Amen.
Suggestions for Practicing Justice
- Make a list of things God has given you. Now make a list of what you already give to God or what you should give to God.
- When playing any kind of game, play by the rules.
- Talk with some adults about justice. Ask them what they think a person owes to God, their family and their country.
- Practice the Corporal Works of Mercy (feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, and bury the dead).
- Keep a Gratitude Journal.
- Practice piety.
- Print out the “The Virtues Under Justice” page and hang it in your room as a reminder of virtues to practice.
Mikki Sciba is the Seasons of Infancy and Initiation Specialist for the St. Philip Institute of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Tyler. She develops and implements creative methods for evangelizing and catechizing children between the ages of 0-12 years.