Pastor's Desk: 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted 21st August 2010 in Pastor's Desk

This week’s article comes from Fr. Tom Cahill, writing for Intercom magazine.

The Punisher

An atheist doesn’t usually feel the need for a supernatural being – and one that’s a punisher to boot! But last year at the annual conference of the British Association of Science its president said that religion may have helped to protect society from itself in the past, and may be needed to do so again. His concern was not for divinity but for human failure, as he saw it, to take effective action against global warming. A supernatural punisher, he suggested, might be part of the solution. That’s raising global warming to the fire and brimstone temperature of pulpit thumpers of yesteryear!

He’d like today’s Second Reading (Heb 12:5-7, 11.13) as it talks about being punished by the Lord. However, verse 6 is a quotation from the Book of Proverbs 3:12. The language there is softer, less punitive than in Hebrews, at least in the NRSV Bible. In Proverbs we have ‘reprove’ not ‘punish’; and a father who ‘delights’ in his son, and not merely ‘accepts’ him, as in Hebrews.

Impressions are important. They must never blur our image of the loving God we believe in. He who delights in us is not vindictive or judgmental. But neither is he a softie. Evil exists up to its most abhorrent forms because of a misuse of the freedom our loving God gave us. When we misuse it there are consequences always. They’re built in to the way things are. Unfortunately, there are times when we can’t seem to learn by any other means than through the dire consequences of our acts.

Fr. Tom Cahill SVD, Divine Word Missionaries

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