Tuesday of the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 366

But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

The "Just World Hypothesis" insists that good deeds will be rewarded and wicked deeds will be punished.

We have to believe that. It would be hard to make the ordinary sacrifices we all make if we didn't believe it. You'll be paid for your work. If you study, you'll get the passing grade. If you clean your plate you can have desert. If you act in a Christian manner, when you die, you'll go to heaven. 

That everyone sees the wicked rewarded and the just punished may rattle our faith but we're reluctant to give up the Just World Hypothesis. When tragedies and traumas are truly overwhelming and we feel deeply scarred by these disappointments we're likely to turn to cynicism, saying, "There is no justice; there are no values! There is only violence. The lucky survive." 

Jesus' teaching challenges us to rethink the Hypothesis. "Your heavenly father makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, he causes rain to fall on the just and unjust." 

If that is the case why should we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God? (Micah 6:8) 

True, it's an angry question but it warrants reflection. If we cannot exactly answer it, we can honor it. 

I find an answer of sorts when I recall my own parents. They were good people; they should be rewarded. But they did some wicked things. I remember. 

Not only do bad things happen to good people, good things happen to bad people. Good people do bad things and bad people do good things. 

Oliver Cromwell, the notorious general who oversaw the murder of thousands of Irish people -- it might be called genocide today -- wept pathetically when his little girl died of a fever. Without sympathy for millions of people, he could weep over a little girl. Good man? Bad man? Who am I to judge? 

I've done wicked things also. I have confessed them and did penance and accepted the sacramental signs of forgiveness. I live with the guilt; the sacraments don't erase one's memory. 

I take consolation in Jesus' teaching. But, because I am comforted I have to offer that same consolation we have received from him. 

I can own it only if I give it away. 

The Just World Hypothesis pretends to be a theory but, in fact, it's an attitude, a posture. It divides the world between good and bad people, a division that proves to be arbitrary and irrational. 

Jesus teaches us a better attitude, one of open hospitality to others, a willingness to see the image of God even in our enemies, knowing that God has no enemies. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.