Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Wednesday of the Thirty-fourth Week in Ordinary Time

(Revelation 15:1-4; Luke 21:12-19)

Preachers used to talk a lot about the wrath of God.  The topic easily captured people’s attention.  Also, there is enough reference to it in Scripture to make it seem very important. Today's first reading refers to it quite directly.  Seven angels hold the last seven plagues of God's fury.

However, we must be careful in using human qualities to describe God.  He (forgive this gender reference, but it is the language used to reveal God in Scripture) is beyond human emotion since he is pure Spirit.  Indeed, God is beyond our ability to describe Him.  Yet a few qualities stand out because they were used by Jesus in speaking of his Father.  God is just, for example.  Indeed, justice is what Revelation is trying to get at when it refers to God’s wrath.  For all human indifference to God's goodness, justice would seem to require the imposition of severe punishments.  But God’s justice is not a tit for tat.  Its aim is to make humans just, and its primary tool is mercy.  Both the Old and the New Testaments constantly show God acting mercifully toward His people so that they might finally learn His ways.

We cannot imitate God by becoming angry.  Although anger is not necessarily sinful, it is neither an attribute of God.  We do imitate God when we show mercy, but not mercy as permissiveness.  No, when we show care for others, are willing to pardon their transgressions, and firmly hold them accountable to improvement, we give testimony to God’s love.