Red Mass for lawyers

Lk 3:10-14

Justice is the business of lawyers as health is the occupation of doctors. However, in all trades, there are betrayers of the profession. Unfortunately, even among Catholic lawyers we have betrayers. We cannot expect less since there was a traitor in the very midst of Jesus’ closest associates – Judas Iscariot, one of his apostles.

When John the Baptist was preaching, people of different walks of life came to ask him what they had to do? (Lk 3:10-14) In this passage, St. Luke mentions specially by name tax collectors and soldiers, people hated by the Jews. To the tax collectors, John the Baptist said: “Exact no more than your rate.” To the soldiers, he replied: “ No intimidation! No extortion! Be content with your pay.” It was John the Baptist’s conviction that one can find holiness in the work he or she is doing. If you were to ask John the Baptist what you should do as lawyers, he would definitely answer, “See that justice is done to the least of the people.”

In Malaysia, thank God, in spite of the attempts to subjugate the judiciary and despite some lawyers’ subservience, there are still a good number of lawyers who are brave to speak out and stand for justice. I don’t have to enumerate examples that you know better than I do. Sadly enough, I can’t say this of certain countries that I know of in which the vast majority of lawyers are subservient to the ruling politics.

But how are you different from good lawyers who do not profess our faith and who also practice justice? Or are you no different? Surely, your faith in J Christ should colour your profession, indeed your entire life. St. Thomas Moore, your patron saint, was a shinning example how his faith permeated his life, oozed out and penetrated his profession that led to his martyrdom because he dared to oppose the king.

Perhaps, the teachings of our Popes can enlighten us on how Catholic lawyers can be different from other lawyers and stand out as shinning stars. Pope John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) exhorts Catholics to work earnestly for lasting peace which, says he, is built upon four pillars: truth, freedom, justice and love. Pope John Paul II has added another pillar – reconciliation.

The end of all our efforts should be lasting peace. The goal of your profession is to ensure peace in the country. Hence, promotion of justice is ONLY one means to that end. Pope John Paul II in his message on the World Day of Peace, 1 January 1998, said, “Justice goes hand in hand with peace and is permanently and actively linked to peace.” Hence, promotion of justice is not enough for a Christian lawyer. She or he has also to promote truth, freedom and love which cannot be attained without reconciliation.  For me, the ground upon which freedom, justice, reconciliation and love are built is truth. Surely, justice and love cannot be built upon lies. And Jesus said that He is the truth and that truth will set us free. (Jn 8:32). Truth sets us free.  We must be free to be able to stand up against huge odds and luring temptations that block our path to practice justice. It is only justice that can pave the way for reconciliation – an essential condition for love. And love is the crown of all our Christian actions for God is love (1 Jn 4: 8,16). As can be seen, one virtue is intertwined with the other virtues.

This is the conclusion of our Popes that comes the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is the Christian calling of a Christian lawyer. The practice of justice alone is not enough. She or he is called to promote truth, freedom, reconciliation and love in his or her practice of justice. And this is how people can pick you out as different from lawyers of other beliefs. It is not that you want to stand out from other; it is because you are who and what you are – Catholic lawyers who live their faith.