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Sunday 17 November 2019

God is Just and Fair

Malachi 3:19-20a; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13, Luke 21:5-19

 

By Graviour Augustine

Professor of Catechetics, Oriens Theological College, Shillong, India

Context: students of theology preparing to become priests in the Catholic Church in North East India

Aim: to help all to be careful in the world which tries to show God as unjust and unfair

A rich couple in Nagaland, India, had a big worry bothering them – that of being childless. Medical treatments and visits to holy shrines for a child were fruitless. This led the husband to lose faith in God. But the wife’s faith and prayer helped them to move on in life. After many long years, a girl child was born to them and their joy knew no bounds. As expected, the child became the centre of their life. She was given the best of everything.

One day, the family was travelling to their native village up on a hill at a far distance. The husband was driving the jeep while the wife was sitting beside him with their daughter in the middle. After many hours of travel on the winding road, a snake suddenly appeared from the middle of the jeep through a hole, bit the child and disappeared. The couple heading towards the village for holidays, returned to the town and to a hospital. But on the way the child died.

The couple kept crying, ‘We have not done anything wrong to anyone, and why should the Lord treat us like this?’

Many of us may have similar stories and struggle with unexplainable suffering and difficulties. We might say that those known for committing every imaginable wickedness and sin are flourishing and those known for goodness and rectitude have nothing but suffering all their life.

Our experiences may even convince us that the Lord is unjust. Calamities, both natural and man-made, which have killed innocents may make us say that our God is unfair, and his Kingdom is unjust.

Why bother being good?

We may see persons, and often we ourselves, questioning the usefulness of being good. We may say, ‘God does not seem to reward the good but the wicked; and God does not seem to punish the wicked but the good. It is better therefore to live as we please.’ Such crises which individuals and families face, may also stand before communities, villages and many countries in the world.

How can we find a way out for this confusion and crisis? The liturgy of today tries to help us with answers. Jesus, our loving Lord, tells us that when we, judging from the happenings around, think or say that the Lord is unjust and unfair, we ‘deceive ourselves.’ The questionable lifestyle which many promote today seem so convincing that, it is easy to believe them and follow them. It is easy to fall victim to the traps of several movements and groups trying to change us and make us give up our trust in our just and fair God. They might again show us to the world as ridiculous, obsolete and outlandish. When faced with such situation, the Lord’s warning today – ‘Take care not to be deceived’ – comes to us as a remedy.

The saying of prophet Malachi - ‘The proud and the evil doers will be stubble … will be set ablaze’ – heard in the first reading, comes again as an added help for us to believe that the Lord is just and fair and that he rules his kingdom with justice and fairness.

Passing judgment on God

Being habituated into evaluating things in our own ways, we tend to judge realities and pass judgement on God. We forget that God, as different and supreme being, has a divine and supreme way to judge, though not understandable to us. The saying stands true: ‘An earthly king judges immediately and often wrongly, but the Lord, the heavenly King, judges slowly, surely and rightly.’

Humans as we are, models are necessary for us. Unfortunately, we have numerous ‘models’, powerful and attractive, in every area of life, persuading us to imitate and believe what they say and do – often leading us to agree with them that God is unjust and unfair.

How important it is to look at men and women of God for our models! We need to heed to what St. Paul asks of us in the second reading, ‘Take us as your model.’

St. Mother Teresa of Kolkata who faced issues of life similar to ours had a poem titled ‘Anyway’. This poem will be useful to us to live our life believing in our just and fair God:

 

‘People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centred;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.’

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