‘He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty!’…Yes, but I have seen the rich sit secure on their thrones and send the hungry away empty.
–Annie Dillard (stating the obvious with great eloquence, as she often does)
The beautiful, hard world. The dark world, that nonetheless holds surprising little flashes of light. The unfair world, full of people who simply cannot give up believing in fairness.
In his encyclical on Christian hope, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the mystery of evil, the mysterium iniquitatis, head on.
Iniquitatis because we see the innocent, the powerless, the poor suffering. Mysterium because somehow we know it’s wrong; we don’t accept it; we pray and hope and struggle for something better. Evil may be a ‘given’ in this vale of tears, but that doesn’t mean that we regard it as normal. It’s a daggone mystery. Good makes sense to us; evil doesn’t.
Pope Benedict framed the business as follows. One of our most profound problems is: the contemporary mindset regards religion as something purely subjective, emotional, individual. Therefore, ‘salvation’ = my own personal bliss.
But many people of conscience reject religion, if this is what religion is. They cry, “What about the groaning injustice I see in the world, right in front of my eyes? What God is going to give me bliss if He can’t even see to it that the hungry get fed and the innocent don’t get killed?”
Pope Benedict: the Catholic faith recognizes that our longing for justice among men springs from the religious center of the human being. According to the Catholic faith, our hope for salvation does not confine itself to ‘my personal bliss.’ Rather, our hope includes–it must include–justice for the world, the whole world. Everybody in the world.
God does not stand by, an impotent spectator, while the mighty sit on thrones and crush the lowly. God Himself has been crushed by injustice. Then He rose again as the King of all history. On Easter Sunday morning, He showed His power to put things to rights.
The Lord refrains for now from confronting the world with His righteousness, solely so that we have time to repent. He patiently waits for us to stop committing the injustices that make the world an unjust place. He gives us time to love our neighbor. So that when He comes in a supernova of love, we will not be burned to smithereens, but rather caught up in His glory. We share in that glory now by our humble love.
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Amen, Father Mark!