9th Sunday after Pentecost 26.7.15 Punishment
We have two sets of people being punished in today’s readings: the Jews of Moses’ time (Epistle), and the Jews of Our Lord’s time (Gospel).
There were over a thousand years between these two groups. And another two thousand years on to our time.
As the song says, When will they ever learn?
We, the human race, do not seem to make much progress in wisdom or humility, or plain obedience to the will of God.
When people reject God they take up other things which are not only inferior to God but positively opposed to Him.
The worship of false gods always involves blatant immorality because it is, at root, the worship of Satan.
It is often observed today that there is probably more evil on the face of the earth today than at any time in history.
And we wonder in our conversations whether the world is heading for a mighty big chastisement in view of the blatant and continuous insults to God.
We would enjoy seeing some of the evildoers put to rout, as is a frequent request in the Psalms and other Old Testament books.
But we also would be sad to see massive destruction of life (including the innocent).
So we pray for other means to change people’s hearts, not just wiping them out.
We can be like Abraham praying outside of Sodom [If there be ten good men etc…Gn 18,20-33].
We want people to repent. For their sake and for the sake of the world in which we live. It is a lot easier if everyone is behaving.
We should not want enemies to be smitten unless for their good, offering them every chance to repent. So we are not motivated just by vengeance or malice.
Or we can wish them to be smitten for the good of others, as in the destruction of an aggressor (eg an invading army, against which we use force, not out of malice, but to protect the innocent life of those being invaded.)
We can have justified anger against many, but we are obliged to desire their salvation.
As God says Himself: He takes no pleasure in the death of a wicked man; rather let him turn from his evil way and live (Ezek 33,11)
We might have our ideas what God should do but we must leave it to Him to know exactly what to do in each situation, and with each person.
We humans can be harsh or lenient at the wrong times. God will always get it right. We allow our passions to interfere; this is not a problem with God. He is even-tempered!
When God does punish it is not because He has finally lost His temper, but because He sees that it is necessary to use strong methods with certain people.
Some will resist even when punished. They will probably deny it is God at the heart of it anyway (eg they will say an earthquake is just natural forces at work). Or they will take offence at the idea that God would punish, and still refuse to submit to Him.
In the meantime we pray both that people do repent, and that we be spared from destruction. Both intentions will be more likely to become reality if we pray, and pray unceasingly.
We persevere in this prayer whether we think people are going to repent or not. Always at least some will repent, even if not the generality of people. If nothing else we will be reparating for evil done.
Reparation is important and necessary. We are like the people gathered at the foot of the Cross. For pure love of God we are sorry for the offences made against Him.