When the Son of Man comes, will He find justice on earth?
Whether or not He will find faith on earth (cf. Luke 18:8), only time will tell. But will He find justice on earth?
Will he find the virtuous fairly rewarded and criminals punished proportionately for their crimes? Will He find the world’s goods equitably distributed among honest people living in harmony, with a care for the vulnerable and reverence for the wise? Will He find people communicating discreetly, giving each other the benefit of the doubt, working out their problems gently, helping each other generously, rising above petty antagonisms with serene mutual respect? Will He find all this when He comes again?
Today’s gospel reading at Holy Mass offers us a good warm-up for Sunday’s gospel. Today we hear the Lord Jesus refer to
Zechariah, who died between the altar and the temple building.
Let’s clarify a couple things: First, apparently the altar for animal sacrifice stood outside the original Temple of Solomon. The burning flesh of the lambs and other animals rose from the courtyard up to the heavens.
Second, of which Zechariah does the Lord speak here? How many Zechariahs appear in the Holy Scriptures? 1. Zechariah, father of ________. John the Baptist! 2. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, who prophesied when the Israelites returned from exile in Babylon. And 3. Zechariah, son of Jehoida, who lived 2 ½ centuries before that.
Zechariah, son of Jehoida, condemned the people of Jerusalem for worshiping pagan idols. He warned the people that the Lord had abandoned them—because they had abandoned the Lord. Instead of listening to his righteous warnings, they stoned him to death in the temple courtyard.
Now, the connection with Sunday’s gospel reading is this: When Zechariah lay dying, he said, “May the Lord see and avenge.”
We can see why Zechariah would have said that. Here he was, a faithful teacher of the Law of Moses, defending the honor of God in the Lord’s own Temple—and he meets a cruel death at the hands of bad people solely because he was trying to open the door to God for them. So he prayed that the world would not descend into total meaningless chaos, but rather that the Lord act to restore justice.
This sounds like the widow we will hear about in Jesus’ parable on Sunday, the widow who pleads insistently to the judge: “Render a just decision for me against my adversary!”
We live in the great age of mercy, when all sins can be forgiven because of the blood Christ shed for us. Injustice still holds sway on earth; mercy reigns above. The mercy of God gives us hope for ourselves, in spite of all our own injustices.
But what also gives us hope is the truth that moved the praying hearts of Zechariah and the widow in the parable. The reign of injustice on earth will end. God waits for the repentance of all He has chosen. Then justice will be done. All wrongs will be righted. The meaningless chaos of a world that kills the gentle messengers of God—it will be transformed by the divine Judge into a kingdom of true and eternal peace.
A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later, and you will see me. (John 16:17)
Lord, it’s been 1,980 years!
Which counts as a little while when viewed from either of two points-of-view.
1. From the point-of-view of Almighty God, for Whom a thousand years are like one day. He began it all; He keeps it all going; He will conclude it at the perfect moment—the best-possible moment. Then, we will see exactly why history lasted as long as it did and not one second longer or shorter than it should.
2. Now, I said that there was another point-of-view from which 1,980 years looks like ‘a little while.’
You know, a week from Saturday, our dear seminarian for this coming summer, Mr. Kyle O’Connor, will receive his Bachelor’s Degree from the Catholic University of America.
It will be a Saturday in May, the Cardinal Archbishop of Washington will be sitting with all the other assembled dignitaries on the east steps of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the graduates will line up in their caps and gowns in front of beautiful McMahon Hall, and the brass pipes and strings will begin to play pomp and circumstance…
It’s all as vivid in my mind as if it were today, because I was there myself. The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences handed me a Bachelor’s diploma, too, on a Saturday in May, beneath the inscription on the transept of the basilica, where it reads, “faith is the substance of things hoped for…”
The thing is: When that happened to me—like just yesterday, like I can still taste the cold Yuengling I drank that evening with my mom and dad and brother and aunt… On my graduation day, Kyle was three years old.
Nineteen years ago. It could have been this morning.
Which means that 1,980 years ago could have been three and a-half months ago, according to that calculus.
Lord, come back when You are good and ready! Make it today! Or tomorrow. We can wait a little while longer.
I did not establish the earth to be a waste, but designed it to be lived in. (Isaiah 45:18)
These divine words certainly come as a comfort to us. Whether the earth was designed for us or not—this question has perpetually troubled mankind.
On the one hand, earth is a beautiful planet. The sunrises and sunsets frequently dazzle the eye. Resources that help us, feed us, shelter us, and give us a good life—they abound. We can live together here on earth, communicate with each other, co-exist, co-operate, improve the place together.
On the other hand, we mortals have to exercise constant care, industry, and vigilance—or this hardscrabble world will eat us up. Predators of countless kinds lurk in many corners, and some of them, too, are men. The winters here can be brutal. Sicknesses and plagues run rampant. And, after the course of a pilgrim life, be it long or short, the earth swallows us up in death, whether we like it or not.
So: Is this place a home fashioned by heaven for us, or not? We did not make the earth. We long to discover all its secrets, and those of the entire universe. But we humbly acknowledge that we don’t know the half of them. So we are grateful for a heavenly word spoken to us to decide the question.
The greatest secret that the earth has is: Why is it here at all? With all its charms and challenges—that it both delights and confounds—it practically cries out the question itself: Why do I exist? In and of myself, says the world, I don’t make sense! What’s the reason for me?
It is certainly nice for us to know the reason. God made the earth for us to live in. He designed it for us.
When He Himself walked it, His pilgrim life was short and full of aching sorrows. But He intends to return and set His feet here again, never to depart anymore.
When everything is said and done–when we have been purified of all our sins, and Christ’s glory fills the earth forever–then we will live here in eternal peace, delighting in all that is good, freed from everything bad.
St. Thomas Aquinas gave an excellent Pentecost homily. Click here.
Here is a less worthy attempt… (But shorter at least!)
Come, Holy Spirit! On our dryness pour your dew.
We live by holding fast to the doctrines of our Catholic faith. At the same time, we also see visible signs of the mysteries we believe in. Let us try to understand how the mystery of Pentecost fits into the annual rites of spring.
First, the basic facts: The Lord Jesus died on the cross. On the third day, He rose again. He remained on earth for forty days. Then He ascended into heaven. The Apostles prayed. Then Christ poured out the Holy Spirit.
Behold, He is coming amid the clouds, and every eye will see Him. (Revelation 1:7)
While we were in Israel, my fellow pilgrims and I saw many of the places and things referred to in the Bible. We saw the hometown of Jesus Christ, and the place where He was born. We saw the Sea of Galilee. We saw the Jordan River. We saw the desert where Christ was tempted by the devil. We saw the pathway on which He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. We saw the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Temple Mount and Mount Calvary. We saw the tomb where Christ’s body lay.
…to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus –I Thessalonians 3:13
Who, then, is the faithful and prudent servant, whom the master has put in charge of his household to distribute to them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on his arrival finds doing so. –Matthew 24:45-46
St. Monica waited a LONG time for her son to turn from his wicked ways. But she kept praying and never gave up.
One of the primary causes of doubt about the Christian faith has always been: the Lord Jesus has not come back in glory yet. It has been almost 2,000 years. The skeptics think: He must not be coming back after all.
There are two reasons why this skepticism doesn’t make sense. St. Peter explained the first reason a long time ago:
Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but He is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:8)
It is quite ridiculous for us to think that we can grasp the time-frame of God. He perceives all of history, from beginning to end, in a single glance. We cannot begin to understand what is a “long time” for God.
God knows how long the Age of the Church should be. If it will last 100 million years, what business of ours is it to question that? Our job involves the here and now. The length of history is God’s business.
There is another reason why it makes no sense to doubt that Christ will come again:
People who live their lives waiting for Christ to come again tend to be happy and at peace. IF it were possible to find a happier way of life, then skepticism might make sense.
But the fact is: To “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die,” does NOT make a person happy. In addition to the hangovers, there is the abiding sense of emptiness and dread.
We are made to wait for Christ. When we wait for Him to come, doing what we need to do to be ready–we are as happy as human beings can be in this world.
The Lord has shown strength with His arm:
He has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
and exalted those of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich He has sent empty away. (Luke 1:51-53)
Annie Dillard: “Many times in Christian churches I have heard the pastor say to God, ‘All your actions show your wisdom and love.’ Each time, I reach in vain for the courage to rise and shout, ‘that’s a lie!’ – just to put things on a solid footing.
“‘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.
“If God’s escape clause is that he gives only spiritual things, then we might hope that the poor and suffering are rich in spiritual gifts, as some certainly are, but as some of the comfortable are too. In a soup kitchen, I see suffering. Deus otiosus: do-nothing God, who, if he has power, abuses it” (For the Time Being, pp. 85-86).
Are our Lady’s words in the Magnificat true?
Let’s give Annie Dillard her due: She is a smart, earnest, good essayist. She is a better person than I am. Her question is an honest one.
Can the words of the gospel be true if the poor and innocent still groan under injustice and cruelty, if bad things happen to good people, if the evil prosper? The Magnificat is about the triumph of justice and goodness, about the almighty power of God, Who loves the weak. Mary sings: With the coming of Christ, the weak and downtrodden have triumphed. Is it true?
One of the Pope’s chief concerns in the letter is the “privatization” of Christian hope for salvation. Each of us hopes to get to heaven, certainly. But a Christian hopes for more than just his own individual bliss. A Christian hopes for the coming of the Kingdom of God.
Pope Benedict identifies the fundamental problem: The modern idea that religion is subjective. If religion is not about objective realities, but just about my own “relationship with God” or “experience” of God, then all I can hope for is my own personal peace.
Religion is not fundamentally subjective. Religion puts us in touch with the most objective reality of them all: the all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful God.
Christ has revealed this: Justice will be done. Truth will win. All that is hidden will be revealed.
We fear the Final Judgment, because we know we will have to rely on God’s mercy. At the same time, we hope for the Second Coming. The Magnificat WILL be completely fulfilled. In the meantime, our best bet is to try to do our little part to make the world better, and to bear the injustices of the world with patient perseverance.
Here is how the Pope puts it:
Yes, there is a resurrection of the flesh. There is justice. There is an “undoing” of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. For this reason, faith in the Last Judgement is first and foremost hope—the need for which was made abundantly clear in the upheavals of recent centuries. I am convinced that the question of justice constitutes the essential argument, or in any case the strongest argument, in favour of faith in eternal life. The purely individual need for a fulfilment that is denied to us in this life, for an everlasting love that we await, is certainly an important motive for believing that man was made for eternity; but only in connection with the impossibility that the injustice of history should be the final word does the necessity for Christ’s return and for new life become fully convincing. (Spe Salvi, 43)
Everybody have a happy Thanksgiving? Can’t wait till Christmas?
Christmas is a wonderful day to look forward to. It is a day of enormous spiritual delight. I can’t wait for Christmas, either.
I am sorry to have to tell you this, though. When Christmas Day comes in three and a half weeks, our waiting will not be over. To reach the everlasting Christmas Day, we have to wait until the end of time.
This pilgrim life on earth is above all a matter of waiting.
Don’t get me wrong—it is good to keep busy in the meantime. Staying busy keeps us out of trouble. But a Christian’s main job in this life is to wait.
What are we doing right now? Isn’t the Holy Mass a matter of waiting, waiting for the final consummation of what Christ has begun?
Listen to this sentence from the Mass. It comes right after the consecration:
“Father, calling to mind the death your Son endured for our salvation, His glorious resurrection and ascension into heaven, and ready to greet Him when He comes again, we offer you in thanksgiving this holy and living sacrifice.” Continue reading “Wait Till Christmas”→