Justice is with the LORD.
St. Therese of the Lisieux, October 1, 1999
who said: "I reminded myself that charity isn't a matter of fine sentiments; it means doing things."
Readings: Baruch 1:15-22 + Luke 10:13-16
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Today's first reading has powerful words from a chastened, conquered, and humbled people, read before princes and royalty -- and to all who attend mass today.
"Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem, that we, with our kings and rulers and priests and prophets, and with our fathers, have sinned in the Lord's sight and disobeyed him.
"We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us. From the time the Lord led our fathers out of the land of Egypt until the present day, we have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.
"And the evils and the curse which the Lord enjoined upon Moses, his servant, at the time he led our fathers forth from the land of Egypt to give us the land flowing with milk and honey, cling to us even today. For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God, in all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God."
Let's stop for a minute and think about not only what this passage of Holy Scripture is saying, but also what the Church is saying to us in giving this for reading at masses throughout all the world on this day -- and what we've been hearing.
We often talk about "journeys of justice and peace," and it's important to remember that what the
Church gives us in the lectionary is an arrangement of Holy Scripture in the form of a journey.
For daily masses, there are two annual cycles, for Sundays there are 3. We've been reading these
past few days of God's word to a proud and arrogant people who had been brought low upon the
ground as captives and slaves -- to fall from the glories of David and Solomon to the ignominy
of exile by a canal in Babylon.
Actions have consequences, I think that is one of the lessons the Church is teaching us in this
season of Ordinary Time. In the Gospel, Jesus continues his words of ordination to the 72 who
were sent in Jesus' name to preach that the Reign of God was upon them. Those who have
received much are accountable for the gifts they have received and rejected. Woe to those who
reject the Gospel -- and if you need a hint about what kind of woes we're talking about,
reference the today's first reading. Where are Capernaum and Chorazin today? Ruins visited by
tourists and pilgrims.
For the umpteenth time, I will remind us of the many requirements of justice of the Law which
were broken by the people of Jerusalem thus bringing upon themselves the destruction of their
civilization. Actions have consequences. For we did not heed the voice of the Lord, our God in
all the words of the prophets whom he sent us, but each one of us went off after the devices of
our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God."
Throughout the Word of God are calls to justice, mercy, solidarity, and powerful indictments of
the oppression of the poor and the murder of the innocent.
Yet, here we are, 2500 years later, citizens of a cruel and arrogant military empire whose ethos is
rooted in the glorification of the seven deadly sins of pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony,
and acedia (spiritual laziness). Our culture of death rejoices in the blood of Abel, the cries of the
people oppressed in Egypt, the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan.
But nothing bad can happen to us. We are the Americans, the Americans, the ones who are
God's Special Friends, when the overwhelming scourge comes upon us, we will slide through
unscathed and unpunished and make money on the deal. We can do anything we want to do, kill
any number of innocent children, fire off a billion dollars worth of cruise missiles, sow tons of
seed in furrows of injustice -- and we will never reap a bitter harvest. (Even as I write this and
you read it, children in Iraq are dying as a result of the incompetent and immoral foreign policies
of the United States Government, to cite one of a thousand different examples.)
Do you suppose this is true, that God has died or at least gone to sleep, or maybe He's changed
his rules, dumped the "Blessed are the peacemakers" in favor of "Blessed are you who murder
innocent children and oppress the poor and commit all manner of exploitation and injustice, the
kingdom of this world is yours." Cancel all that love stuff and wake us up when the killing stops.
Remember: we are the Americans, we make our own rules.
NOT! In spite of ourselves, we may yet be dragged "kicking and screaming" into the Kingdom of
God, our structures of vicious wickedness and sin redeemed and reconciled -- "we who were far
off have been brought near by the Blood of Christ."
And so it comes to pass that as the culture of death whirls about us, and captains and kings rant,
rave, and rage, millions of unknown saints and angels are committing random, mysterious, and
secret works of beauty, kindness, justice, mercy and peace, a goodist crusade of redemption and
reconciliation and grace. Glory to God in the Highest, and Peace to His people on Earth!
How merciful is our Lord as these readings come together with the feast day of St. Therese the
Little Flower. Kathy Rabenstein, who publishes biographies of saints at the St. Patrick website,
says about the Little Flower: "Therese had shown innumerable people that sainthood is attainable
by anybody, however obscure, lowly, untalented, by doing the small things and discharging daily
duties in a perfected spirit of love for God."
When Dorothy Day's book about St. Therese was published in 1960, she wrote in its preface: "In
these days of fear and trembling of what man has wrought on earth in destructiveness and hate,
Therese is the saint we need".
James Allaire, of the Winona Catholic Worker, says in the Houston Catholic Worker:
"In Therese's understanding, no act, however apparently insignificant, is without meaning when
done within the awareness of God's loving presence. Whatever our situation in life---a mother
with children at home or a mother working, a store clerk, a scholar, a nursing home assistant, a
suburbanite, an assembly line worker---all of us, in the ordinary and required activity of daily
life, have available to us in the Little Way a means to holiness, to love as God loves us. The
Little Way is the ordinary way we can all become saints."
"For Dorothy, becoming a saint wasn't merely a matter of personal salvation. Her vision was that
the work of social transformation requires saints. "Sanctity alone will meet the crisis of the day.
Nothing else matters. One can feed the poor, shelter the homeless, comfort the afflicted, but if
you have not charity, the Love of God, Sanctity, it is worthless" (Archives: Notebook, November
The structures of sin which characterize the culture of death were built by innumerable individual and personal sinful acts. The structures of Goodness, Beauty, and Wisdom which characterize the Reign of God on Earth flow in like manner from the innumerable individual acts of goodness, justice, mercy, and peace. From washing the dishes to instructing the ignorant, sweeping the floor to feeding the hungry, this is the way the Little Way of sanctity and holiness. May we open our hearts to it this day, the First Friday of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine.
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