Justice can be defined as: fair and equitable treatment.
Two men stand before a judge. Each is accused of stealing from a local baker. One man is accused of stealing a loaf of bread. The other is accused of stealing money. Each is quite aware and fully understands the meaning of the 8th Commandment. The man who stole the loaf of bread needed to do so because he was penniless and his son was starving. The other accused thief stole the money simply for the thrill of stealing. The question is this: After justice is served, which one should be pardoned ? Neither should be pardoned. For justice to be served and order maintained, each must be sentenced. Mercy follows judgment. And in its completion, justice is then served. The judge finds in the case of the thief who stole bread for his son, that he should make recompense by working off his debt in the bakery. The judgment for the thrill-seeking thief is imprisonment. Right judgment according to law has been exacted, appropriate mercy applied, justice is served and order is kept.
Justice, too, was accomplished on the cross. Not only for the two thieves by Jesus’ side, but, through Jesus, as well. In ancient Israel animals were used in sacrifice as burnt offerings to God as atonement for sins. Since blood was seen as the fluid of life, it then had to be spilled for forgiveness of sin. Often the most prized offering was a lamb. Jesus is known as the unspotted lamb of God, for He was sinless.
Original sin could only be cleansed by the sinless. So only God Himself could provide atonement for original sin; the disobedience against God’s will. God, would give Himself, through His sinless Son, Jesus, who possessed both human and divine natures. Jesus, by that human nature, was subject to God’s judgment, as were the two thieves. That is why Jesus, on Holy Thursday night, appealed to God and not the Religious elders to “let this cup pass from Him.” For only God has power over God. The elders had no power other than that which they received from God. All debts had to be paid because justice demands it so. The two thieves for their crimes and the divine Jesus for all the sins, ills and suffering of humanity due to the effects of original sin, that no longer would be a barrier between God and Man.
Judgment assessed, mercy applied and justice achieved. God loved all on those three crosses. He loves us so that He will not usurp our free will. He forces not Himself upon us. We can either be with God in heaven or with Satan in hell. As always, it is our choice. One thief would be in heaven with Jesus because he suffered in silence as did Jesus, and recognized His divinity and innocence. The other thief either found hell or purgatory, in seeking pardon without recompense. Where he ended up after his death is not known. For even among the misguided esteemed Pharisees of the time Jesus said that prostitutes and thieves would get into heaven before them. In saying that, Jesus confirms a Purgatory. Only God could determine that. And whatever mercy that thief may have received, we should not begrudge him. For one day we will be seeking God’s mercy as well. The only certainty of the measure of God’s mercy is in the measure of mercy we show to others.
Purgatory is no picnic. The purification process is likened to that which is permanently experienced in hell. Yet, God is merciful; in that purgatory is but a way station to heaven. Hell is as is depicted on its entrance sign, in Dante’s Divine Comedy: “Abandon hope all who enter here.” Hell is not a way station. It is a final destination. Jesus revealed to Saint Faustina the reality of Purgatory, while appearing before her in 1931, in the following: “My mercy does not want this, but justice demands it.”
Jesus, as God incarnate, is the sole dispenser of judgment and mercy. His mercy rains down upon all mankind: past, present and to come through His Crucifixion and Resurrection. He tells us that death no longer need be feared, for those who believe in Him will do as He has done. All who bear well their suffering and contritely repent their sins, as the good thief, will be with Jesus in Heaven and forever behold the joy of God’s eternal loving presence.
“Because of his boundless love, Jesus became what we are that he might make us to be what he is.” – St. Irenaeus
We are all loved into existence by a just God. Therefore, our souls are askew when be behave in an unjust manner.