Judgment Day--July 19, 2020 COVID-19 Faith Reflection
Physicists tells us that light is a funny thing. Bending around corners, it acts like a wave. That is why shadows have fuzzy edges. Light also acts like a shower of rubber particles that bounce off surfaces. That is how we can see our image in a mirror. Light is a wave. Light is a particle. Which is it?
People in the Bible had the same trouble understanding how God dealt with wickedness. Does God punish now or later? Which is it?
In the gospel of Matthew for this Sunday, the parable of the weeds among the wheat emphasizes the patience of the sower. For now the weeds prosper, but on the harvest day, “just as weeds are collected and burned (up) with fire, the Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Matthew 13:40-42). There will be a Judgment Day.
It is a comforting thought that those responsible for massacring hundreds of thousands in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, the assimilation of Tibet by the Chinese government in the 1960s, and the crimes against humanity in World War II will get their just desserts. Terrorists and human traffickers might escape a human court of law, but certainly not the hand of God. It’s just a matter of time.
Much of the Old Testament, though, had a different understanding of God’s justice. When the people of Judah suffered from war and drought, time and again an unpopular prophet stepped up and told them why they were afflicted—the people had sinned. Their suffering was God’s punishment of their wickedness. When the people sin, God like a parent punishes.
In this perspective, the people suffered not because of an evil aggressor. They had sinned against God and God was merely letting the evil aggressor be his instrument to punish. It’s similar to hearing how someone after years of smoking developed lung cancer and your thinking, “That was their choice. Now they have to face the consequences.”
The Book of Wisdom adds a third opinion about God’s judgment. “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us” (Wisdom 12:18). The psalmist echoes the hope, “Lord you are good and forgiving” (Psalm 86:5). Sometimes, it seems, God lets people off scot-free.
No doubt at all, the world is full of wickedness. But how does God judge and punish evil? Now or later? Both or not at all?
Wouldn’t it be convenient if God gave us timely feedback, so we can see how well we are doing? If you do evil, you get misery dumped on you. If you do good, you get rewarded with a nice life. Everyone would have clear incentive to do justice and love goodness.
In the end, God does not have to reward good. God does not have to punish evil. God is not controlled by our actions. The same God who judged the stiff-necked Israelites, the same God whose angels hurl evildoers into the fires, that same God died for us sinners on the cross.
Thanks be to God for the First Communion that our children received on Saturday. Please pray that their 2nd Communion leads to their 3rd Communion and so on, leading to an ever deepening lifegiving communion with the Lord.
Please pray for our young men and women receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation on Friday. May the Holy Spirit strengthen their life in Christ and their witness in the world.
It is not too late to join a study group. We are reflecting on the bishops’ pastoral letter about racism. The aim is to understand the church’s teaching so that we bring the light of the Gospel to this issue. The three-part studies start this Sunday morning at 11am via zoom, Monday after morning Mass, Tuesday at 645pm, and Wednesday via zoom at 6pm. Don’t miss out!
DISPOSABLE MASKS NEEDED
We are looking for donations of disposable masks. Please bring your donations to the parish office Monday to Thursday from 9am-3pm or drop them in the main entryway at a weekend Mass. Thank you for your help!
Nativity Longwood .
on Sunday, July 19 at 12:00PM