In today’s first reading, we encounter God at the end of His patience with His chosen people. His priests and people have added infidelity to infidelity. They have practiced abominations… adopted false gods and false teachings… and in so doing they have desecrated the Temple.
God has tried many times to call them back to Him. He has sent prophets, proclaiming the truth and entreating the people to return to the one true God. Their calls fell on deaf ears. In love God sent prophets; in spite those prophets were mocked. There came a time when God’s love demanded justice. No longer could the blasphemies be endured — to turn a blind eye would have been a false love. License is not love, and every parent has reached that point where the child, for his own good, must be corrected…. And I’m sure the correction hurt God more than it hurt His people. So God removes His blessing and allows His people to fall into the hands of their enemies.
Think about that for a moment: God removes His blessing. The shields are down. And the Babylonians make short work of Jerusalem. The city is ransacked and those not massacred are carried off into captivity.
Now, God does not abandon His people; He simply lets them go their own way for a while. In a sense, He gives them what they want. They chose false gods over the Living God and they chose blasphemies over the Commandments. And God gives them the freedom to make those choices and in His great mercy, He allows them to experience the consequences of their choices.
I am sure to the uninitiated, when I say “in His great mercy,” it sounds like I’m being snarky. No. It is a great mercy for God to allow His people to experience the consequences of their actions just as it is mercy for a parent to allow a child to make bad decisions and feel the consequences, for without that the child cannot learn to make better decisions. This is a truth no child understands but is crystal clear to an adult. The child screams, “It’s not fair!” The adult responds, “No. it isn’t.”
It isn’t fair… but that’s the way it is. God could have allowed His people to continue in their error, but no truth comes out of a great lie. Instead — in His great mercy — He brought His people back to the truth by first allowing them to experience the fullness of their error.
We live in a country and in a time that is elevating error to new heights. We have strayed far from the Law and from God. We as a culture have made Christ into a caricature of His true Self and increasingly cast even that aside. We redefine marriage and murder the unborn. We worship ourselves and take God for granted. We glorify sex and mock chastity. We tolerate courts that punish Christians for acting according to their conscience but allow public lewdness as protected speech.
This terrifies me; it should terrify you, too. We live in a country where most of the people think Satan is a fairy tale to scare children. Meanwhile, the Prince of Lies is grinning ear-to-ear. How long until God withdraws His blessing from us and allows us to become the victims of our own disordered desires?
God is Truth. God is the source and author of all truth. When we stray from God, we stray from the Truth. We embrace falsehood. It is every bit as true for us as it was true for ancient Israel: the truth cannot come from embracing lies. Lies lead to destruction; the truth leads to life. The question is not if, but when will God — in His great mercy — allow us to embrace our destruction so that He may save our lives.
The question is, of course, also this: will we repent before it is too late?
Today’s first reading records an event in history. As it has been so wisely observed, those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. From that standpoint, the prospects look grim. Is there hope?
Of course there is always hope, and so we move from the first reading into the Gospel. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” Again, we see the eternal and unlimited mercy of God at work for our salvation.
We who hope in Christ have nothing to fear in the end. The path to salvation and eternal life is before us, and that path is a Person… a Divine Person: Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Now, there is a very real difference between having nothing to fear in the end and having nothing to fear tomorrow, for tomorrow is not the end. We may well have to suffer before we reach the end and we may well have to suffer in the model Christ gave us: we embrace our Cross, take it up, and follow Him.
Does that mean martyrdom? Does that mean persecution? No one but God knows the answer to that… but we do know it has meant those things before. And it will at some point mean them again.
“And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” How true are John’s words… we see it all around us at work in the world. There are many who seek to silence the truth because they do not know God, but they know evil. They know it very well.
What will happen to us? What will become of our time and our world? God knows. But there is one thing we know: Whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.
We see in the second reading that Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] brought us to life with Christ … raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens … that in the ages to come He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”
Let us pray every day that our lives may glorify God ceaselessly; that we by force of our Christian love and the example we set through our life in Christ may call all people to the fullness of Truth — that we may call all people to God. It is not too late to change our world… to defeat the lies and restore the Truth to His proper place. But it is work that must be undertaken diligently, for there will come a time when God will tire of waiting for us to do the work of His Kingdom… the work to which we are called… and He — in His mercy — will have no option left but to do the work Himself.