A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, August 28, 2006

I deserve THIS?

You deserve to be ridiculed.

You deserve to be shunned.

You deserve to be passed over at work.

You deserve to be fired.

You deserve to go to jail.

You deserve to be beaten.

You deserve to be killed.

So it seems in today's first reading (2 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12):

...regarding your endurance and faith
in all your persecutions
and the afflictions you endure.

This is evidence of the just judgment of God,
so that you may be considered worthy
of the Kingdom of God
for which you are suffering.

St. Paul goes on to connect this with broader statements (not included in today's reading) about God's rewards for the faithful as well as his punishments for evildoers and unbelievers.

It can be a little confusing: the implication in the above verse that our afflictions are "evidence of the just judgment of God" as well as the description in the non-included verses of "...taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Is this fair? Is this really just?

Ultimately, of course, God alone is the judge, for God alone knows what is in our hearts - better than we ourselves (we can fool ourselves, but we cannot fool God - may God have mercy on us all).

As for "taking vengeance on them that know not God" the expression translated as "know not" is not to be understood as invincible ignorance - especially when considered in connection with Paul's statements elsewhere (e.g., Romans 1:19-20, 1 Timothy 2:4).

As for our afflictions, it is arguable that the just judgment of God is evidenced more in our endurance and faith than in the afflictions themselves, especially when they are undeserved, so that we "may be considered worthy of the Kingdom of God."

But even in the afflictions themselves there is evidence of the just judgment of God, not in that we are targeted by God for affliction but in that these afflictions, these evil effects, follow from evil choices: choices made by ourselves or (perhaps more often) by others.

God permits evil choices so that he might enable our free choice for good, i.e., our free choice to love him.

(Saint Augustine, whose memory we celebrate today, famously wrote [Enchridion, xi]: "For Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, were He not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil." "Neque enim Deus omnipotens quod etiam infideles fatentur Rerum cui summa potestas cum summe bonus sit ullo modo sineret mali esse aliquid in operibus suis nisi usque adeo esset omnipotens et bonus ut bene faceret et de malo.")

In the infinite mystery of his loving will, it is the just judgment of God that permits evil effects to come from evil choices, even when the evil effects extend beyond the evildoer.

The just judgment of God, of course, does not end there. Evil will not forever stand. The scales of justice will be made level - in Time and in Eternity.

Yet God does not stop even there. As St. Paul says elsewhere (Romans 5:20):

But where sin abounded,
grace did much more abound.

God will make all things right
...and more!

We cannot fully understand this. There are sufferings and evils that seem too great to be overcome by any reality no matter how otherworldly.

Yet we must also recognize that our intelligence, as great as it may be, is limited.

There are many things in this physical world that our human minds cannot comprehend and our human minds can probe very little into the Infinity and Eternity that is beyond it.

Here faith plays an essential role: a gift of God's grace, enabling us to endure afflictions, weaknesses, and the seeming delays of justice, while we work as much as we can for the justice, mercy and truth of God to be made manifest.

God's justice and mercy will conquer, but in the meantime, we find our security in faith and grace.

He said to me,
"My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is made perfect in weakness."

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses,
insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong.
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

We always pray for you,
that our God may make you worthy of his calling
and powerfully bring to fulfillment
every good purpose
and every effort of faith,
that the name of our Lord Jesus
may be glorified in you,
and you in him,
in accord with the grace
of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.