Aquinas tells us that the prophet Isaiah talks about two things—
Justice, which he possesses, and a vision of God. And they follow one upon another. For the vision of God is arrived at through justice. Consider Psalm 15: ‘Who will dwell in your tabernacle. One who walks without blemish and exercises justice.’
Moreover, “The gates of life are the gates of justice.”
Aquinas teaches that justice, truth and compassion “are the same in essence” and offers this image taken from the psalms:
The psalmist compares justice to mountains, truth to clouds, which are higher, and compassion to the skies, which are higher than all things.
In doing justice we “imitate God”:
We imitate God by being compassionate because compassion is bound to accompany love. ‘Be you compassionate as your Creator in heaven is compassionate;’ (Luke 6:36). And this must be in deed.”
Compassion is not just a pious work or an object of meditation—it requires deeds. Notice how he links compassion and justice preparing the way for Meister Eckhart’s teaching, “compassion means justice.” (Eckhart was 15 years old when Aquinas died.) Says Aquinas:
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.’
Notice how Aquinas is equating justice and truth in this passage. There is no justice sans truth. As bell hooks says, “the heart of justice is truth telling.”
Aquinas defines compassion this way:
To be compassionate is to have a heart that suffers from the misfortune of others because we think of it as our own…You are truly compassionate when you are eager to repel the misfortune of others.
Injustices so often reign but “God is not the originator of injustice.”
The “roots of just desire” begin with “delight in God through love”—the Via Positiva therefore forms the foundation for a life of justice-making. He cites Philippians 4: “Always take joy in God.”
Justice is the “greatest” of the moral virtues for it holds society together and concerns our relationship with others–“justice is in a way the good of another person….By it one is directed in one’s relations toward another.”
He urges those fighting for justice, “to take pleasure in doing just deeds” which flow readily from those who love justice.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Tao of Thomas Aquinas: Fierce Wisdom for Hard Times, pp. 101, 109-115.
And Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 505, 101, 391f., 401
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Justice, Truth, Compassion: A First Nations woman stands in witness before shoes left on the steps of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in memorial protest for children who died at the residential schools of Canada. Photo by Tandem X Visuals on Unsplash
Queries for Contemplation
Do you take pleasure in fighting for justice? And agree with Aquinas and Isaiah that justice and a vision of God go together?
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
Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality
Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him. He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French). He gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way.
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake