The Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C
Reading I: Malachi 3: 19-20a
Reading II: 2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12
Gospel: Luke 21:5-19
In the first reading we hear of death and destruction, and it seems that God is angry and punishing people. However, when we see the face of God in Jesus, we see a loving and merciful God. How can we explain some of the violence that is attributed to God and seemingly encouraged by him? I used to question the use of some
of the Psalms which seem to be asking God’s vengeance on our enemies.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, writes: “God is non-violent. God does not prescribe violence. Violence should never be rationalized in God’s name.” That is clear in Christian revelation. To support this, Fr. Ron tells us to keep two things in mind: First, that when the Scripture speaks about God as if he is angry, etc., it is speaking “anthropomorphically.” That simply means that we are projecting our own human thoughts and feelings into God. When Scripture says that we will experience God’s wrath it doesn’t mean that God is angry and will punish us. There is a natural result of sin which serves to punish people. Sometimes, dealing with the results of sin can be devastating. Relationships can be destroyed, physical pain can result, and difficult and painful circumstances can be experienced.
Another caution when studying the Scriptures, is to remember that it can be deceiving to interpret some things written in the Bible literally. Words have meanings which change over time. For example, teenagers do a good job of confusing us when they say something is “bad” when they actually mean “good” or “cool” or even “great.” However, we can usually interpret the spoken word correctly. The challenge is when we have a written word that was used long before we were born, or when it is in a language which we do not know.
Father Ron talks about the example of archetypical stories to teach lessons, but which were not intended to be taken literally. An archetypical story is a universal symbol or representation. One example might be “mother earth” because it nourishes, sustains, gives comfort like a mother. A journey can also represent life with its up’s and down’s. Many archetypical stories represent good vs. evil. A scapegoat represents a person who is blamed for everything that goes wrong even when he/she is not responsible.
Fr. Ron cites God’s command to the Israelites to kill all the inhabitants of Canaan when they enter the Promised Land. That is simply a metaphor (an implied comparison) to do away with all things which might tempt them to wander from the path of holiness. This reminds me of the advice given at Weight Watchers meetings. A recommendation is to remove items which are trigger foods from your living situation. In that way, you will not be tempted so much.
What is to be concluded with all of this? Let us remember the human face of the merciful Jesus, the God-man. Fr. Ron quotes Walter Brueggermann as saying: “God is in recovery from all the violence that has been attributed to him and done in his name.” Let us hold in our hearts the words: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8).