The first line of Reading I for today tells us "the Lord has
consumed without pity." How alien this seems to our usual thinking about
God! And yet how much evidence SEEMS to support the statement!
So many of the images and incidents in the Old Testament can be considered
unsupported by empirical evidence; many narratives to our 21st century ways
of thinking and judging seem awfully (awe-fully?) close to stories in pagan
mythology or fairy tales. But this first reading is not at all difficult
to relate to the experiences television shows us almost every day.
A tornado wipes out a Nebraska village. Floods, hurricanes and forest
fires cause horrendous destruction. Wars in Africa and Asia prompt miseries
both inconceivable and undeniable. American "Rust Belt" inner cities
in this richest and proudest of nations display ruins as lamentable as those
of cities on the other side of the globe.
Reading II from the Psalms uses similar imagery: smoldering anger, utter
ruins, a sanctuary hacked with chisel and hammer and then a flame.
The plains are full of violence. These lines are from so long ago,
and yet the proof that such experiences of grief are with us now is found
on the front pages of the New York Times or the Omaha World Herald.
These images are not mythology, nor are they from fairy tales. Why
do these things continue, why must the psalmist's questioning be our questioning,
too? But it is, and the merciful God we are accustomed to pray to seems,
simultaneously, the Lord without pity referred to in the first reading.
From one standpoint, our human history can be looked on as a series of agonies,
agonies increasing in scope and meaningless bitterness. Our mass media
seem to give us documentary evidence of an angry, vengeful God. But
let us also ask: are the media our gospel? Are history books our Scripture?
If they are, our plight would be hopeless indeed. Instead, we have THE GOSPEL,
today the Gospel of Matthew, and the stories of the faith of the centurion,
of Peter's mother-in-law, and of those who brought to Jesus many who were
possessed by demons. The cures Jesus brought about are the answer
to the one who has found the Lord to be without pity.
Without faith, there will be "wailing and grinding of teeth," and even with
faith, we will have sorrow at the enormity of suffering in this world.
But Jesus is the Lord who demands of us faith in Divine Mercy. We must
ask for that mercy, and go beyond the incomplete picture given by the media
and temporal experience. We must believe that Jesus has cured in the
past, and will cure again, and bring us to a state in which "the souls of
the poor ones" are not forgotten.