Friday, December 3, 2010

Isaiah 29:17-24: "A God of Passionate Justice."

Christian spirituality in recent years has had a tendency to focus almost exclusively on a portrait of God as an all-loving, beneficent, and compassionate deity. This has served as an important corrective to an earlier inclination on the part of our tradition to paint God as a judge who liberally doles out "fire and brimstone" upon those who sin. It is probably long overdue to allow the "pendulum" to swing back in the direction of how God reckons with evil and injustice. In a world filled with so much difficulty, pain, stress, strain, and grave injustice, an accurate and faithful image of God must take into account God's passion for justice and the divine response in the face of evil.

The books of the prophets in the Old Testament is one of the best places to collect the raw material needed to fashion an accurate portrayal of God's passion for justice and final reckoning. Many of the prophets stood directly in the "line of fire" and spoke truth to power in a way that reminded the powerful that God does not sit idly by and tolerate malicious acts, evil scheming, and the oppression of the vulnerable, poor, and lowly. Throughout the Old Testament God continually reminds the Israelites of the sacred obligation to take care of the "widow, the alien, and the orphan" in their midst. Without qualification or apologies, God expresses through the prophets a preferential regard and concern for those whose life hangs by a thread.

Today's first reading from Mass from the book of the prophet Isaiah bears powerful testimony to the prophetic witness to God's passion for justice: "The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD,
and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 
For the tyrant will be no more
 and the arrogant will have gone;
 All who are alert to do evil will be cut off,
 those whose mere word condemns a man, 
who ensnare his defender at the gate,
 and leave the just man with an empty claim."

Make no mistake, the Judeo-Christian God who is an icon of compassionate concern is also a God of an equally strong passion for justice. However, the way in which God's passion for justice becomes tangible in our world is through those who carry on the ministry of the prophets: speaking truth to power on behalf of the lowly, poor, and vulnerable in our midst. Pat, TOR