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Friday, January 8, 2010

Is God Just—Even When We Are Massacred?

©2010, Randall A. Beeler

Thou art indeed just, Lord, if I contend
With thee; but, sir, so what I plead is just.
Why do sinners' ways prosper? and why must
Disappointment all I endeavour end?

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend,
How wouldst thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost
Defeat, thwart me? Oh, the sots and thralls of lust
Do in spare hours more thrive than I that spend,
Sir, life upon thy cause. See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them; birds build -- but not I build; no, but strain,
Time's eunuch, and not breed one work that wakes.
Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain. (Hopkins)

Gerard Manley Hopkins' famous poem seems a fitting way to celebrate another good Friday of Sorrowful Mysteries of Christ's Passion. But the world must find such a celebration witless.

Here we are, in the midst of the Epiphany, celebrating the pilgrimage of the nations to the Christ Child—and what do we do? We proclaim the death of Our Lord. No wonder some scoff at the Faith. We pass to others a peace that flows from the Passion, a violent, hideous, shameful death. We proclaim Jesus' resurrection from the dead; yet, we go on dying. While we gather in faithful worship, we are gunned down by our enemies before the very altar of sacrifice and firebombed as we worship.
You indeed, O Lord, are just, if I plead with you, but yet I will speak what is just to you: Why does the way of the wicked prosper: why is it well with all them that transgress, and do wickedly? (Jer 12, DRE)
Hopkins begins his sonnet with Jeremiah's lament, as if to show that the world must indeed wonder at Christianity. Not only are we decimated at the hands of our enemies but our very Scripture critiques the God in Whom we place our faith.

What God is this? Why, for His faithful "must/Disappointment all [we] endeavor end"?

As the "sots and thralls of lust" thrive in their leisure more than "I that spend,/Sir, life upon thy cause," the sonnet's tone shifts:

…See, banks and brakes
Now leavèd how thick! lacèd they are again
With fretty chervil, look, and fresh wind shakes
Them …

In the throes of our failure, green life bursts forth.

As He carries the Cross, Christ reminds the weeping women of Jerusalem, "For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" (Lk 23:31, DRE). Our suffering the green and the dry embodies the sin-broken world we live in. God Himself does not deny this reality, but embraces it in the "fretty chervil" of the Crown of Thorns.

Christ's suffering does not imply that God inflicts evil on us. The Church's frank admission that the evil do  prosper and that the faithful can often be "time's eunuch" is not a sado-masochistic encouragement to "just suffer it." God cherishes our freedom, to the point of suffering our sin of executing him. The Crucifixes we wear proclaim that the Corpus on the Cross rises to eternal life—as do we. Thereby, we defeat evil … in the very grip of it.

In becoming man, God does not plot our suffering but pleads with us in our suffering, in sighs and groans as deep as our laments:
6 The Lord is the keeper of little ones …
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. (Ps 116, DRE)

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