Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Good God!

Sr. Helen came to supper with an air of irritation. A "Catholic" radio show had provoked her ire: the host was saying that the raging, destructive fires in California were God's punishment for (name your favorite sin). I had had a similar conversation with a parent last week who was sure that autism is God's punishment of a contraceptive culture. And it's not too long ago to remember when preachers were saying that Hurricane Katrina was God's chastisement of New Orleans and AIDS was God's punishment for homosexual sin.
The funny thing is, I'll bet if you were to ask any of those people if they believed in God's goodness, they would probably be rather dismissive about it: "Of course I do." And then they'd hurry to affirm even more strongly, "But God is also just."
For some reason, it seems safer dealing with a just God than with a good God.
That tells me that the Good News still hasn't gotten through to many of us who say we believe in the Gospel. Not that we don't all need to "live in continual conversion of heart" (as Bl. James Alberione understood from the Divine Master), but that conversion has to have more of a foundation than the human propensity for failure. Seeing "punishment" everywhere is the same as seeing evil everywhere: the gaze is displaced, from God to the fallen creature. But the Bible says, "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith."
It is time to look at Jesus.


Fred said...

Oh, dear Sister, how this hurts, when we constantly preach God's goodness...I guess it's easier to blame God than to take responsiblity for our actions. I agree with Sister...I would have been angry, too, especially from a Catholic source...Please continue to preach God's goodness! It's beyond our comprehension...
Father Fred

Anonymous said...

Amen Sister!

Anonymous said...

I must have missed out on something growing up, but my memories have been more centered on Mea Culpa and de Profundis and not much Abba. I hope that I am not too mired in guilt to move over to the emphasis on God's Goodness. As a parent I grasp the love which this mother has for her children, and will endeavor to relate to the prodigal son parable in the hope that the horrors of hell and purgatory which my generation was taught will be in proper perspective. Sorry about the run on sentence, Harriet

Jaimie said...

Thanks for your thoughts on this important matter. Having a child with autism, I heard it all. And yes, natural disasters brings out the worst in these...how shall I say it...crackpots. This lethal combination of pride,presumption, and superstition makes others feel terrible. God is so good, I wonder how He feels to have words put in His mouth. Is that taking the Lord's name in vain?

Klaire said...

I respectfully disagree, in that I'm not convinced that what looks like the "wrath of God" by many is not in actuality, the mercy and love of God. As one who came close to losing my house in the CA fires, I had a lot of time to watch and think. I mostly thought of how much the state of CA needs a spiritual awakening. I thought about how we passed a muti billion dollar "baby cloing" bill, which now makes us the leader in Embryonic stem cell research, the new "California Gold Rush." I thought about the recent new laws in the public schools, where the "alternative" lifestyle must be legally taught as "normal."

I also asked "how much pain does it take to "spiritually awake?" Ironically, the election of devout pro life Catholic Bobby Jindal(Louisania) that same week may have answered that question. What state has suffered more than Louisiania in the past few years? I doubt very much that Jindal would have been elected if Katrina had never happened.

I make no claims to second guess God, only that as a Catholic, I've learned the value of redemptive suffering, and hold fast to Romans 8:28. I also hold fast to the mercy of God, which I know does not always show up as a little box on our pillows before we rest our heads. To quote one of my favorite homolists regarding the "diasters" in the United States, "It only looks like a diaster."

My honest thoughts as I lived through these horrible fires, was, "Ahh, the mercy of God perhaps?" I don't discount for a minute even one lost life or the thousands of homes. But I also don't discount the good God promises those who love him. God is immutable, waiting for us to change, not him. Haven't the greatest changes come from our sufferings? Imagine if CA take a conservative route like LA just did, even to the election of our next president.

I'm certainly all for God's love, I just believe that God's love doesn't always "look" like the love we are expecting. And sometimes, the greatest love is hidden in the sufferings and the diasters.

Love and justice equal mercy; mercy is the highest form of God's love. (from EWTN homily Oct 5, 2007 archived at EWTN.com)


xaipe said...

I am from New Orleans, and just about everyone I know or love had a lifetime's worth of trauma from Hurricane Katrina. (Pre-Katrina, New Orleans had something like 23 Perpetual Adoration Chapels, so it isn't accurate to characterize the city as a den of iniquity.) In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus warns us not to take such disasters as evidence of sin: the people who were killed by the falling tower in Siloam were no guiltier than anyone else. But disaster (and suffering in general) can serve as a spiritual wake-up call. We can always benefit from that, and it is certainly a grace of God's mercy.

Anonymous said...

Sister first I want to thank you for your wonderful blog (just discovered it this week). Rest assured I am not out to start or win any arguments, but I do believe the chastisement issue could use some clarity. I suspect we agree on much more than we disagree, but in honestly, I get concerned when �chastisement� is not only dismissed, but frowned upon.

My response was two-fold. Firstly, that in �keeping that center on Jesus�, I�m not convinced that he doesn�t allow some pain and hardship to hopefully lead us to a deeper spiritual clarity. That�s what I meant by �it only looks like a disaster (chastisement).� We both know that God isn�t a gotcha game, and wants every soul saved. I suspect we also agree that we aren�t promised bliss and perfect happiness in this life, instead, our �earth time� is where we are given the grace to �get it right.�

I also am well aware of the many strong Catholics in both Louisiana and California, at the same time, it�s hard to deny that La has a lot of corruption and CA has a lot of filth; both of which have major consequences (as does all the faithful who pray in reparation, especially for the salvation of souls). Do you not agree that sin has consequences? Many people don�t believe that to be true, despite the fact Jesus spoke many more times about sin in the gospels than he did about love.

My points were made more from the entire body of Christ, knowing by the teaching of the faith that all sin and all good, effects us all (for better or for worse. As for individual suffering, well, the book of Job clearly taught us that good people suffer with the bad.

I don�t begin to pretend that I know how God thinks, but I do know his great mercy and his great love, and I also know that sin has consequences, and that suffering often brings us to spiritual awakenings. Even though God never stops loving, and never leaves us during the suffering, it�s concerning when the word �chastisement� is dismissed, and especially concerning when it�s dismissed as �let�s get back to love not punishment.� With all respect Sister, I would make the case that sometimes, perhaps not always, there is far more love in the �chastisement� then most of us realize.

"You can't conceive, nor can I, the appalling strangeness of the mercy of God." Graham Greene, Brighton Rock


p.s. Bishop Fulton Sheen often taught about the consequences of sin, as does his predecessor, Father John Corapi, who via Rome, has the gift of Apostolic teaching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbqiuKrJ-pM

p.p.s. With all respect to Sr. Helen, I see God's love and mercy in everything, even the pain and suffering.

xaipe said...

You pretty much nailed my point when you said, "it only looks like a disaster (chastisement)". Sr. Helen's objection (and mine!) was that there was an unequivocal identification of disaster=chastisement=punishment=wrath, and no hint at all about God's love and mercy being present and active in a mysterious form. While this may make for good radio, it is very bad theology!

Klaire said...

Thanks so much Sister. I appreicate the clarity.

Happy Birthday!