One side of compassion is called justice. This is the biblical meaning of compassion, which Eckhart names this way: “Compassion means justice.”

“You Have the Right to Remain Human” by Kim Vanderheiden as “an attempt to reframe the concepts behind Miranda in a way that shepherds humanity, integrity, and relationship.” Wallet-sized cards are available HERE. Text is in Public Domain.

Thomas Aquinas was keen on the link between justice and compassion when he wrote:

God is justice; God is compassion. . . . We find these two things, compassion and justice, in all the works of God. . . . Compassion without justice is the mother of weakness. And therefore it is necessary that they be joined together according to Proverbs 3:3: ‘Compassion and truth will not forsake you.’

Justice is that side of compassion that prevents it from being co-opted by sentimentalism or feeling run rampant with no sense of the balance that is needed and is integral to deep healing. Anne Douglas, in her classic work, The Feminization of American Culture, defines sentimentalism as “rancid political consciousness,” a worldview turned in on oneself and one’s private feelings and completely lacking in a sense of justice-making. Douglas demonstrates how deeply sentimentalism lurked in the modern media beginning with the nineteenth century and surely continuing to today.

Jesus at the Capitol, 1/6/21. Photo by Tyler Merbler on Flickr.

Does Julian see the connection between justice and compassion that Eckhart and Aquinas saw? Yes, she does. “God wants to be known and loved through Justice and Compassion now and forever,” she writes. Indeed, “Justice is that thing that is so good that it cannot be better than it is.” Like Eckhart and Aquinas before her, Julian states bluntly that “God is Justice.” And “God creates Justice in all who will be liberated through goodness.”

Love is not a sentimental feeling.  It is about our working for justice and creating structures and institutions that care about justice and in that way allow love to happen.  Eckhart emphasized how love can only happen among equals and justice-making is about creating equity between peoples and communities. 

“Restorative Justice: Why Do We Need It?” Robert Greenwald and Brave New Films explore an alternative to our current, failing criminal justice system.

Power-over dynamics, whether they be gender based or race based or class based are not compatible with equality.  They are about inequality.  This is why the rising tide of prejudice expressed as anti-Semitism or racism, as sexism or heterosexism,  are so injurious to the body politic.  The increase of diversity that is a sign of our times invites us to throw off prejudices and projections, fears and scapegoating, to rediscover beauty in all its many manifestations.  This is an invitation to love anew and fall in love with the richness of creation including human diversity and creation.

Love is about discovering a God of love and Love as God–and a love of life—biophilia—with wondrous diversity all around us.  How boring life would be if all beings (including human beings) were only of one kind.  Or one color!  One religion.  One cuisine.  One kind of music.  Vive la difference!  Celebrate differences!

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 50f. 

See also Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, p. 115.

Banner Image: Finding strength together. Photographer unknown.

Do you sense a “rancid political consciousness” leaking into today’s politics in a big way?  How do we combat that trend?

Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond

Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.”  –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.

The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times

A stunning spiritual handbook drawn from the substantive teachings of Aquinas’ mystical/prophetic genius, offering a sublime roadmap for spirituality and action.
Foreword by Ilia Delio.
“What a wonderful book!  Only Matt Fox could bring to life the wisdom and brilliance of Aquinas with so much creativity. The Tao of Thomas Aquinas is a masterpiece.”
–Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

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4 thoughts on “Justice and Compassion in Julian, Eckhart, Aquinas”

  1. Avatar

    I find I’m caught off guard by hearing “injustice is not sustainable”- does this mean revolution is inevitable? (My fear) or that Justice will come peacefully somehow (my fantasy)? I’ll be curious to learn more here…..

  2. Avatar

    I don’t think it’s either/or. Politics (negotiations of power) is messy and evolving, turning. To move toward justice & compassion calls for vision, leadership, persuasion, and networking/relationshipping — acting together to grasp what is possible now, and where the way further forward might lie.
    For instance, after the events of the past year, I think many of us White people are more able to see the hitherto unseen *systems of injustice, built into our political and social order, that have kept so many of our brothers and sisters down.

  3. Avatar

    How indeed! How can we combat “rancid political consciousness” when many of our politicians, who are supposed to be our leaders, are so completely unaware of doing anything else but whatever serves their own purposes, no matter how much the common good is abhorred, ignored and cast aside. My only answer is that those of us who believe that this world is not our true Home but know to look inside ourselves to find where we belong: a place where Love, Joy, Compassion, Light and Peace, are in complete residence: our True Home, which can then be manifested wherever we abide. Let’s make it happen!

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