19 June 2010

The wrath of God

On Saturday Mass in Pukekohe, it is my turn to read the first reading.  Some days I rather feel I were not so privileged:
After the death of Jehoiada, the princes of Judah came and paid homage to King Joash, and the king then listened to them. They forsook the temple of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and began to serve the sacred poles and the idols; and because of this crime of theirs, wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem. Although prophets were sent to them to convert them to the LORD, the people would not listen to their warnings. Then the Spirit of God possessed Zechariah, son of Jehoiada the priest. He took his stand above the people and said to them: “God says, ‘Why are you transgressing the LORD’s commands, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have abandoned the LORD, he has abandoned you.’” But they conspired against him, and at the king’s order they stoned him to death in the court of the LORD’s temple. Thus King Joash was unmindful of the devotion shown him by Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, and slew his son. And as Zechariah was dying, he said, “May the LORD see and avenge.”

At the turn of the year a force of Arameans came up against Joash. They invaded Judah and Jerusalem, did away with all the princes of the people, and sent all their spoil to the king of Damascus. Though the Aramean force came with few men, the Lord surrendered a very large force into their power, because Judah had abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers. So punishment was meted out to Joash. After the Arameans had departed from him, leaving him in grievous suffering, his servants conspired against him because of the murder of the son of Jehoiada the priest. He was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2nd Chronicles 24:17-25)
I mean, you feel a bit awful saying all that to the congregation :-)  I haven't personally killed any prophets' sons, or worshipped and sacred poles or idols (at least not literal ones).  Still ...

I intended to go to Confession today, and had already intended opening my soul to God about my rather pathetic prayer life.  I intend to spend at least half an hour a day in what Catholics call 'mental prayer' - what Protestants just refer to as personal prayer, prayer of the heart - in addition to certain Scripture reading, and reading of other spiritual literature.

Such are my intentions.

What is the anger of God?  It is not the anger of someone for whom you promised to do something, and then you didn't do it - "You said the car you sold me had no faults but I have discovered a huge ding in the side of it!!"  Nor is it the anger of someone to whom you have done something damaging - "You (*&*^% !! - you are going to pay for the damage to my lawn!!"

It is the anger of a lover.

I go to God so routinely when I want something, when only He can help me, when something is lacking that I am helpless before.  And He hears me.  He provides, even when I do not ask, my very being, my life's breath, my environment, my regular paycheque, my health.  And then there is the special needs and I ask - and never in vain.

He wants me.  Only He knows why.  I am not, it seems to me, lovable in my self.  I cannot understand why God loves me - but He does.  I know it.  He loves me and wants me to be there for Him - only for Him.

I express myself poorly, I know.  But I know this is the heart of it.  He is a jealous God.  He loves me so much that He will not settle for less than my whole heart.

His love for you is not less.

1 comment:

Robbie said...

thanks for this John. I like the insight - "it is the anger of a lover". I wonder too if we could say that his anger is a mode of our reception to his love? That is, his love is experienced as his anger to the extent to which it is not embraced? Just as him coming to take me is liberation if I welcome it but the invasion of a thief if I want to keep myself for myself. The flourishing he wants for me becomes the emptiness of me not flourishing when I reject it, so I experience his anger. Can we say maybe that our being is so oriented to him that any resistance to him on our part is experienced as punishment, as deprivation, even as abandonment?
In the end, is the fire of God's love in heaven the same fire as the fire of hell? Is his love totally rejected experienced as torture - for it will never end, it will never 'leave me alone' - it will never be extinguished as much as I want it extingushed in my hatred? I'm not sure this is the way it is but I do pose it seriously as a possible field of exploration.