Sunday, July 20, 2014

"Those Who are Just Must be Kind"

(From John Martin, via WikiMedia Commons, used w/o permission.)
('Now that I have your attention ....')

God is occasionally presented as violence-prone, with serious anger management issues.

Some folks who describe the Almighty this way seem to think that we should worship God because the alternative is getting squashed like bugs. Others claim that God is a make-believe bogeyman, invented by charlatans to frighten people.

I think both claims are missing an important point.

God is just, God is merciful: and sometimes God has to get our attention.
"For neither is there any god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned;

"For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.

"2 For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.

"But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.

"And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; And you gave your sons good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins."
(Wisdom 12:13, :16-19)
That's from this morning's readings. The Gospel reading, Matthew 13:24-43, is a long one, and includes a parable about wheat and weeds. I'll get back to that.

The Beginning of Wisdom

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalms 111:10; Sirach 1:12)

It's also a gift of the Holy Spirit, along with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and piety. This sort of piety encourages devotion to God. It's not a sanctimonious holier-than-thou attitude, and that's another topic. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1831, 1850, 2084)

Pope Francis gave a pretty good explanation of the "fear of the Lord" last month:
"The gift of fear of the Lord, which we are speaking about today, concludes the series of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean being afraid of God: we know well that God is Father, that he loves us and wants our salvation, and he always forgives, always; thus, there is no reason to be scared of him! Fear of the Lord, instead, is the gift of the Holy Spirit through whom we are reminded of how small we are before God and of his love and that our good lies in humble, respectful and trusting self-abandonment into his hands. This is fear of the Lord: abandonment in the goodness of our Father who loves us so much...."
(Francis I (June 11, 2014))

Fear of the Lord and Karaoke

Ever since the first humans preferred their own will to God's, we've had relationship issues with the Almighty. It's easy for us to be afraid of God, which isn't the same as having "fear of the Lord." (Catechism, 399)

The "fear of the Lord" we read about in Psalms 111:10 is reverence for God.

I'm supposed to recognize that God's God, and I'm not: that I owe my continued existence to God. (Catechism, 2096-2097)

Fear of the Lord is not living in terror that God will caste me into an infernal karaoke bar because I like the 'wrong' kind of music.

On the other hand, Hell, eternal separation from God, is real. So is Satan. At the end of all things, I'll either willingly accept God: or not. (Catechism, 391-395, 1033-1037, 1849)

"Not," in my considered opinion, is a daft option.

To Seek, Know, and Love God

My job is to seek, know, and love God.

I'm invited, along with everyone else, "to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life." (Catechism, Prologue, 1)

I should be learning to say four things to God: please; thank you; sorry; and I love you. That quartet isn't my idea, by the way: a new priest in our parishes talked about that learning curve last week.

We start out by asking God for help, should follow that up with thanks, and — if we're realistic about our decisions — tell God 'I'm sorry' when we mess up. Happily, repentance is an option. (Catechism, 1422-1449)

Telling God "I love you" is something I'm working on, probably will be for the rest of my life, and that's a topic for another post.

Wheat and Weeds

The "weeds" in Matthew 13:24-30 are a specific plant: darnel. It's poison, either because of the plant's alkaloids, or a fungus that lives in the seed head. Darnel is sometimes called false wheat, because it looks almost exactly like wheat until the weed's ear appears.

The parable of the wheat and weeds is one of the more comforting passages for me, since I've looked an awful lot like a weed at times.

Remembering that "those who are just must be kind," and applying the principles outlined in Matthew 7:1-5? It's not easy, but sure beats the alternatives.

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