Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I take it back.



Well not really.
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But I want to take this opportunity to say I know absolutely nothing.  That said - I think I was wrong about some stuff I wrote.  When something catastrophic happens in the world and people start saying it is God's punishment for sin, I always get a little miffed and point to the Gospel passage about the tower of Siloam, when Jesus told his listeners, "Do you think these people were greater sinners than you?  You will all come to the same end unless you repent." 
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I've always put the emphasis on the not passing judgement part.  Evangelists seem to like to use these things to blame people and condemn - at least that's the impression I get.  So I react to that Westboro-Bible-banger mentality, without really understanding the consequences of what I say.  However, it occurred to me later that Jesus never told his listeners - "this wasn't God's punishment" - he said, "You will all come to the same end unless you repent."  I was only hearing what I wanted to hear, deep down thinking, God couldn't, wouldn't chastise or punish us like that.  I tell myself, 'It's just a natural disaster after all.'  Yet even insurance companies refer to natural disasters as an "act of God."  An act of God works for businessmen because they don't have to pay out.  Likewise, it works for us when we think those people are being punished and we maybe just got off with a warning.  (Unless of course we dismiss the whole thing as a random event and say, 'that's too bad', and move on.)  The point is, people think like people - God thinks like God - God is God. 
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Questioning the wrath of God.
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Does he get pissed?  Scripture says he does.  The prophets say he does.  The saints say he does.  But today theologians seem to know better - or at least they seem to mince God's words and chalk everything up to random natural phenomenon and rarely if ever offer any positive instruction or moral teaching except to justify man's sins.  Is it any wonder then that people of good will go after apparitions and mystics to find some semblance of religious truth?  In this they sometimes resemble those who seek assurance and approval through mediums and fortune tellers - and priests and bishops do not even try to restrain them and teach them, saying instead, "Let them go here or there if it is leading them to pray more..."  Whatever. 
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The mystery of the Cross.
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In today's Gospel Christ refers to his listeners - and ourselves - as an evil generation because we seek signs - "yet no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah."  It seems to me Christ Crucified is that sign - left to us in the Memorial of his Passion - the Eucharist.  I may have it wrong, but I think God does chastise humanity - doesn't the Crucifix demonstrate that?  Doesn't the Good Thief reveal to us our participation in that?  Isn't suffering part of the deal?  Do we not need purgation?  If we don't, why do we believe in purgatory?  God disciplines his sons - as St. Paul tells us - I think we are obliged to believe that.
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In addition, St. John of the Cross tells us that we can know the causes of events naturally, without supernatural revelations, or searching through dubious prophecies and mystics:
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"Supernatural events can be known in their causes, since divine Providence responds most certainly and justly to what the good or bad causes arising from humanity demand.  One can know naturally that a certain person or city, or some other factor, will reach such a point that God in his providence and justice must respond in conformity with the punishment or reward that cause warrants." - Ascent, Bk. II, Ch. 21: 9
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So yeah, I really do think God chastises humanity - obviously the good and the bad suffer.  Our hope is in Jesus Christ crucified - our answers are found in him, the way,  the truth, and the life.  It is in the cross that mercy and truth, justice and peace intersect - together in love.  Therein lies my hope and trust.
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Even a governor in Japan seems to believe what is happening is beyond natural:  "The outspoken governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, told reporters Monday that the disaster was "punishment from heaven" because Japanese have become greedy."  Perhaps we know better however, huh?

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Our Lady of Akita, pray for us.

21 comments:

  1. I know what you mean, but how then does one avoid seeing God's wrath in every bad thing that happens?

    A family miscarries a child, a spouse Is killed in an accident, a man loses his job ... Is the correct response really to think "I must have pissed off God"?

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  2. I don't think so Mercury - sadly, these things are a part of the human condition - one of the miseries of life. I don't know any more than that.

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  3. funny you post on this today; i was reflecting on the very same thing this morning. we don't know if this is God's permissive or active will, or if it's merely a natural occurrence. but if we are persons of faith who believe in the vatican-approved apparitions of fatima, et al. where our Blessed Mother has repeatedly warned of natural disasters as punishment, then why not believe this is God's wrath unleashed upon a deserving sinful mankind? and just because we're on the other side of the world & escaping the calamity, doesn't mean we didn't have a part to play in this. if the disastrous numbers of slain americans in the civil war was God's wrath upon us for our complicity in slavery (was it?), what's in store for us for having nearly 40 years of legal abortion?

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  4. I guess in what I asked, Terry, the point for the faithful would be to simply be humble before God and accept His will. Whatever trials he sends anyway, whatever the reason, us are not because he hates us, but because he wants us to trust in Him and flee to Him. I just can't bear knowing that there are poor mothers out there who miscarry and wonder why God has unleashed his wrath on them.

    The same goes for natural disasters - whatever reason they are sent, they certainly point out how fragile life is, and how everything we've built can be washed away so fast. It certainly makes clear what the only things of lasting importance are (hint: it's not diversity), and the need for constant humility and obedience to God.

    And what a crappy job of that most of us do.

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  5. I have take a bit of a trashing on the issue of chastisement. lol.
    Here is my man Hardon SJ--Hope you don't mind, Terry. It is long.

    God is Not Mocked

    Indeed, the calamities that we have so far seen in this present century — two world wars with more casualties than in all the previous wars of history, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust that hangs over us like a tornado cloud — all of this is God's warning to do penance and reparation. Why? Because God is not mocked. You do not offend God with impunity. You do not sin without retribution. You do not ignore the will of the Almighty and expect the Almighty to ignore what you do.

    What bears emphasis, however, is that this retribution is either to be paid willingly, with our penance and reparation, or will be paid unwillingly within the divine punishment.

    The divine logic is simple, awfully simple, and all we have to do is learn what God is telling us. Either we do penance and reparation because we want to, or we shall suffer (against our will) the consequences of our sins in this life, and in the life to come.

    But remember, this penance and reparation is to be done not only for what we have personally done wrong. It is for all the pride and lust, for all the cruelty and greed, for all the envy and laziness and gluttony of a sin-laden human family.

    God is merciful, and in fact, as our Holy Father has told us, Jesus Christ is the Incarnation of divine mercy. But God's mercy is conditional. It is conditional on our practice of penance and reparation.

    I have discovered on the "Catholic" blogosphere that to even suggest the wisdom in the avove is tantamount to a lack of charity, lol.

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  6. Terry: I forgot to tell you what a truly insightful post this was. I know you don't like hearing this sort of thing, nonetheless...When our pastors can no longer speak of sin we are in grave trouble. One cannot speak of God's love separate and apart from his justice...

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  7. This is a stupid question, but what are the ordinary means of penance? Fasting during Lent and at certain other times, I understand ... but how much is "expected" of an average Christian, and would it be a step in the right direction simply to turn our normal inconveniences into penance?

    I know I'm not doing "enough", but I also know that there's no end to how much is "enough". How the hell can I ever "repay" for one mortal sin? So I'm wondering if I need to go out and buy a hairshirt :) ...

    All kidding aside, I'm trying to fast more this Lent than I ever have, but it's still not even close to what our Orthodox brothers do. I don't want to bite off more than I can chew.

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  8. And once again, is it even possible to know if one is personally being punished for something?

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  9. Yes..there is the wrath of God...but also the Divine Mercy..
    Japan is built on a HUGE earthquake prone area.....earthquakes WILL happen.. just like if you live in the Gulf of Mexico hurricanes WILL happen..if you livwe next to a volcano it WILL erupt..
    We humans are just in the way in these areas..then we wonder why us ..

    Sara

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  10. Mercury: Lord, yes, turning over little inconveniences is pleasing to God!Go to www.therealpresence.org
    and enter Penance and Reparation: A Lenten Meditation.
    It really helped me understand, better, the how of penance.

    Also, I found "Poenitemini" By Pope Paul VI (1966) helpful. It is at the vatican website www.vatican.va/

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  11. Yeah, when's the last natural disaster to hit New York? I guess those silly Dutchmen picked a good spot.

    Funny story: New Orleans has always had a vibrant Catholic culture, made up of simple immigrant folk - it's why our accent sounds like Boston or New York. Anyway, years ago, there was a hurricane in the Gulf, and of course this lit up the switch-board in a local call-in radio show. Callers kept saying things like "I'm just prayin' dat da good Lawd spares New Orleans, Gawd knows we got lotsa good Cat'lics 'round here", and "We know it ain't comin' here, 'cause we all a buncha good Cat'lics" and whatnot.

    Finally, one listener must have gotten fed up with it, and he called up and said (hopefully sarcastically) "Yeah, I'm just praying it hits Texas, they ain't got nothing but Baptists there". The host hung up on him. If you don't think the story is funny, maybe you'd have to get used to the mentality of the natives around here.

    And that's the thing with hurricanes - they have to hit somewhere, so it's almost like praying for God to mess up someone else - more often than not a poor Latin American country (Hurricane Mitch had over 15,000 dead in Honduras).

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  12. Thanks, Maria. I'll have to find the time to sit down and read it. Fr. Hardon's stuff is always a "mindfull", so to speak.

    I bought his Catechism - I should start reading it soon.

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  13. Mercury - that was going to be my next post. Ordinary penance.

    Sara - that part was left out of the Gospel text - the part about the people standing next to the tower in Siloam - if they only would have moved.

    That's all folks! LOL!

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  14. Check out this before and after satellite photos slideshow at the Huffington post...

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/14/japan-earthquake-2011-goo_n_835548.html#253388

    You just can't see enough photos to get an inkling of what is going on over there..

    Sara

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  15. Mercury-- Your story was just TOO funny!! I spent a couple of years in the South (Mississippi) so I can relate a bit :)

    Sara

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  16. "...God does chastise humanity - doesn't the Crucifix demonstrate that? Doesn't the Good Thief reveal to us our participation in that?..."

    The crucifixion was the fulfillment of God's promise of a redeemer. It was not a chastisement upon man.

    The Good Thief, the bad Thief.

    The Good Thief was the son of the Robber King that gave comfort to Mary and Jesus when Joseph was leading them to Egypt.

    Jesus physically cured him of sores and boils on his body when the Good Thief was a child and his daddy was kind to the Holy Family.

    Jesus cured his body when he was a child.

    The Good Thief had met Jesus when he was a child.

    The Bad Thief did not know Jesus at all.

    Thus it is for those that refuse to know Jesus.

    On the cross, Jesus cured the Good Thief’s soul.

    *

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  17. "Upon Him was the chastisement that makes us whole." Isaiah 53:5

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  18. "...Upon Him was the chastisement..."

    It was not upon mankind.

    It was because of mankind.

    The crucifixion was the fulfilment of God's promise of a redeemer.

    Everyday of our lives when we sin we crucify Christ once again.

    I am looking forward to your post on penance.

    I am certain it will be very edifying.

    *

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  19. Mercury--too funny!

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  20. You know how every kid has gotten a trophy for the last several decades so that no kid ever has to experience disappointment? I think the Catholic Church has done the same thing. The Church mirrored the culture, as it has in every other way, for the last 40 years. They decided: no one needed to go to confession cuz, guess what? There is no more sin. Oh, and everybody gets to go to Heaven. How does everbody think the new policy worked out? Sing with me know:

    All you need is love, all you need is love,
    All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
    All you need is love (all together now)
    All you need is love (everybody)
    All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
    Lennon/McCartney

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