Monday, February 04, 2008

The Calculus of Vengeance

I must admit that it is sometimes difficult for me to know when I should rebuke a lack of charity and when I should show grace to those who are oppressing others. This world is a complex place and it not always possible to define people as being either oppressors or oppressed. Quite often, it is the most oppressive people who are at the same time the most oppressed, either by present circumstances, by their past, or by others. When it comes to oppression, the root cause is often several generations deep.

I guess I have always believed that there is a time for war and a time for peace. I have believe that sometimes it is appropriate to speak to the oppressor's better instincts, while sometimes it is appropriate it name oppression for what it is. For some reason I seem to have developed an overdeveloped sense of justice. Sometimes this is the burden that I carry, sometimes it is the burden carried by others.

Given that this issue has been one that I have had to consider recently, one of the quotes that was in the handout I picked up when going to Mass on Saturday night was quite enlightening:

My own temperament inclines me towards compliance and a readiness to appreciate the good side of people and things, rather than to criticize and pronounce harsh judgments. This and the considerable difference in age, mine being more full of experience and profound understanding of the human heart, often make me feel painfully out of sympathy with my entourage. Any kind of distrust or discourtesy shown to anyone, especially to the humble, poor or socially inferior, every destructive or thoughtless criticism, makes me writhe with pain. I say nothing, but my heart bleeds. These colleagues of mine are good ecclesiastics: I appreciate their excellent qualities, I am very fond of them and they deserve all my affection. And yet they cause me a lot of suffering. On certain days and in certain circumstances I am tempted to react violently. But I prefer to keep silence, trusting that this will be a more eloquent and effective lesson. Could this be weakness on my part? I must, I will continue to bear this cross serenely, together with the mortifying sense of my own worthlessness, and I will leave everything else to God, who sees into all hearts and shows them the refinements of his love.

Diary entries Paris, 1948
Blessed (Pope) John XXIII, "Journey of a Soul"

For what it's worth, you may be interested in knowing that the introductory quote for "Anna Karenina", the book I am currently reading is "Vengeance is mine; I will repay", quoting Romans 12:19. Maybe there's something in that for me to think about.

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