9th Sunday after Pentecost 29.7.12 Divine punishment
There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I think we might as well say that those who remember history also are doomed to repeat it.
The human race makes very little progress in moral or spiritual development. We are terrific at inventing new technology but terrible at learning how to live according to God’s will.
Today’s Gospel has Our Lord reflecting on the way things unfold in human history. He laments that Jerusalem has not and will not take advantage of the lessons it has been given from past generations. They will make the same mistake as their ancestors in putting to death the prophets; only this time they will go one further and kill not just the messenger but the son (cf parable of the vineyard).
Here we have God lamenting that He (God) will have to inflict such a severe punishment on people that He loves.
In recent times a belief has emerged among Christians that a loving God would not ever punish His people. He is too gentle, too forgiving for that.
Yet we have abundant biblical stories where He does just that; and also many times since biblical days when clearly a divine punishment has taken place (eg the Second World War, prophesied at Fatima).
We can think it won’t happen to us, but it has happened before and we (taking everyone together) are doing our best to bring on even bigger punishment than ever before.
It is not as though God is bad-tempered. He is not like us in that if we push Him so far He will finally snap; for example He will forgive the first 499 times but not the 500th.
He does not reach boiling point (like we do). He has perfect control of His thoughts, so that His actions and reactions are always the best possible in the circumstances. He sees, with perfect wisdom, that we are heading down the wrong path.
When He sees that other avenues are not working He will allow a punishment designed (in love) to bring us to our senses.
Just as parents have to punish their children sometimes so a loving Father must punish us. He does not enjoy it but it has to be done.
He gives us a lot of freedom and a lot of time but there comes a time when intervention is necessary.
We naturally pray that He spare us the full force of the punishments we deserve. And this prayer is heard (cf the ten good men in the city, Genesis 18,16-32).
No doubt prayer on our part has averted many disasters; but we have to keep praying and like never before.
As well as praying we must repent. If we had repented in sufficient numbers before we might have saved ourselves a lot of the disaster we have seen. And then we really would see the blessings, uninterrupted.
God is much happier to bless than to smite. But the way to allow Him to bless - and only bless - is to go with Him not against Him.
Thus Jerusalem could have been spared. But they would not listen and we are not listening now, as a society at least.
In the meantime a certain few, ten good men, must do what they can. This is where we come in.
We pray to hold off the disasters, and that by peaceful means the people will repent and enjoy rich blessings.