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, July 02, 2007

What befalls the wicked

In the days after natural disasters such as Katrina or even horrific massacres such as September 11 strike a particular place, there are always religious leaders who depict the deaths of the people in that place as God’s punishment for the sinfulness of the people of that place. (There are also non-religious opinionmakers who instinctively ascribe blame – with little regard for facts – to their favorite bogeyman: from global warming to globalization.)

Of course, there are precedents. Today’s first reading (Genesis 18:16-33) introduces us to the classic example of a place struck with disaster explicitly on account of its sinfulness: Sodom and Gomorrah. This is stated quite explicitly by angels in the following chapter (19:13):

We are about to destroy this place,
for the outcry reaching the LORD
against those in the city is so great
that he has sent us to destroy it.

On the other hand, we have the explicit words of our Lord in Luke 13:1-5.

There were some present at that very time who told him of the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.

And he answered them,
“Do you think that these Galileans
were worse sinners
than all the other Galileans,
because they suffered thus?
I tell you, No;
but unless you repent
you will all likewise perish.

“Or those eighteen upon whom
the tower in Siloam fell and killed them,
do you think that they were worse offenders
than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, No;
but unless you repent
you will all likewise perish.”

Actions, of course, often have consequences in this world and unforgiven sinfulness always has consequences in the world to come, but what happens to people in this world is an unreliable indicator of their virtue in this world or of their final destiny in eternity.

Yes, bad things happened to bad people in Sodom (and quite possibly to a handful of relatively good people as well) and people who do bad things are in deadly peril (especially in the world to come), but our focus needs to be on doing the good for its own sake and on loving the Lord and his people for his sake, rather than cheering on divine punishment of the wicked in this world, for as the Lord says, "...unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, be merciful to me – a sinner.