Tuesday, II Week of Advent
(Isaiah 40:1-11; Matthew 18:12-14)
The other day public radio advertised an upcoming interview with an evangelical pastor who has parted from the Church’s tradition. The pastor believes that God could not send anyone to hell because, he says, if God condemned one person for infidelity or lawlessness, then He would have to condemn billions and that would make him a mass murderer worse than Hitler. Believing God to be all-merciful, we have compelling reason to agree with the renegade pastor. However, we should first examine the Church’s teachings.
The readings today reveal God not as an executioner but, quite the contrary, as a savior. He tells the prophet to comfort His people Judah by informing them that their punishment has ended. By now they have learned that “all flesh is grass”; that is, that the opulent nations that Judah once emulated, have withered like the grass in winter. Judah can see the futility of following those nations and the need to return to God’s ways. Likewise in the gospel, Jesus pictures God as a worried shepherd seeking one lost sheep even though he has ninety-nine others to support his needs.
It would be blasphemy to characterize God as a mass murderer. We rightly see Him as one who seeks out the lost and comforts the bewildered. Because some seem to scorn His message, we cannot say for certain that they ever return to his fold. Still we can pray that every person turns to God in his or her heart and heeds His words of reform and comfort.