Justice is one of the divine attributes most often mentioned in Sacred Scripture. It is already evident in the first sin of Adam and Eve, through the maximum penalty applied by the Creator: the loss of grace and Paradise. Clemency was millennia in coming, but the reward was worth the wait: the Son of God himself would be offered as ransom.
To atone for the fault, Christ became like us in all things except sin (cf. Heb 4:15). He who has the power to judge the living and the dead lowered himself to the condition of a criminal, despite being Innocence.
Nevertheless, Jesus’ trial was merely a pantomime. Falsely accused, one of His own betrays Him. The Sanhedrin disregards the entire legal process, infringing several aspects of Jewish law, which the Pharisees so proudly “practised”. Finally, the Messiah is handed over to Pilate.
In a mock interrogation, the Lord declares before the governor that He has come “to bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:37), to which the governor responds: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:38). Our Lord is silent, as if revealing that He is Truth Incarnate. Admitting that he could find no guilt in the Innocent One, the Praetor proposes to release Him, but the “public jury”, incited by the Sanhedrin, prefers the release of a murderer. In a cynical gesture, Pilate washes his hands and orders the crucifixion.
To human eyes all was lost. The farce seemed to have triumphed… However, as St. Teresa of Jesus assured us, “truth suffers, but never dies.” Three days later, Jesus rose in glory and gathered the Apostles around Himself.
Nevertheless, after forty days, the Lord leaves them again. And now what? What can be expected of a dozen ignorant people (cf. Acts 4:13) to form the Church and spread it throughout the world?
If “truth is the child of time,” as the adage attests, the reverse is even truer: “time is the child of the Truth.” Moreover, if history is the teacher of life, He who called himself the Life (cf. Jn 14:6) is the Teacher of history.
Therefore, Providence worked the Incarnation in the “fullness of the time” (Gal 4:4) and used the very structure of the Roman Empire to advantage – as if in “revenge” against Pilate – to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. In short: the most improbable happened…
History, then, is not a fairy tale, nor much less a comedy. It is like a drama full of tragedies, surprises and conquests. In this sense, we find in the Bible edifying narrations, such as the episode in which Susanna, unjustly condemned to capital punishment for adultery, is saved on the brink of death thanks to her fervent prayer and the inspired intervention of Daniel.
Moreover, iniquitous trials and death sentences have been recurrent in Church history since the dawn of Christianity, including notorious condemnations such as those of St. Joan of Arc, St. Thomas More and the Carmelite martyrs of Compiègne.
In these cases it could be objected that justice failed, for innocent people perished at the whim of the judges. Yet they received the most perfect verdict, namely, the one that welcomed them into Paradise. What is more: at the Last Judgement, the great reckoning in which everything will be inexorably revealed, justice will finally triumph and the wicked will “fail” for all eternity. ◊
Editorial of the Heralds of the Gospel magazine, #183.