Friday, September 17, 2010

Divine blackmail? An evangelization dilemma

Someone I know is having trouble with the problem of evil, suffering, and Divine Judgment. More particularly, this person thinks it unjust that God 1. doesn't correct what is wrong with the world and 2. might possibly send people that this person knows, respects and loves to Hell, akin to Divine blackmail that people should do as God says or He will send them to burn for all eternity because they weren't convinced to be a follower of Christ.

I ask prayers to the Holy Spirit in formulating a response. I am keenly aware that answering in the wrong attitude could turn this person away (see this blog site's header). Our conversation has so far been pretty intellectual, covering the Trinity, time/eternity, ecclesiology, sacraments, purgatory, free will and responsibility.

I think that ultimately, though, what this person needs to know, is that as Catholics, while we understand the importance of doctrine to shape our faith life, we don't follow a set of rules as much as we follow a person, er, a Person. And this Person is not unfamiliar with our suffering. He willingly chose suffering as a means to purchase us back from death (Hell). God doesn't send us to Hell, it is we who insist upon it for our rejection of God. Jesus Christ offers us the opportunity at every moment of every day to receive His love, and to be filled with the grace to repent of our sins, to draw close to him in holiness.

But the following of Christ is not that we should perfectly follow the doctrines with paranoid scrupulosity, and I fear that maybe I gave that impression. The following of Christ is that we should live by His example. He chose to endure His suffering, not for suffering's sake, but as an act of love to make us whole. The suffering that we endure ought, then, in turn, be offered up as a sacrifice to God for the sake of the salvation of all mankind, including those who do not know Christ. In this act of offering up our sacrifices, we draw closer to the heart of Jesus Christ. Simply put, we fall more in love.

We can think that it is our responsibility to follow to the letter every bit of the commandments, the directives, the suggested devotions, etc. and to avoid every possible transgression. Well, no we should not take it lightly to sin, but to focus only on avoiding sin can become academic, sterile and barren. Our responsibility is to love, to give, to serve, to witness to the truth. We love Him who is truth. (Right, Pilate?)

Coming back to the original hangups this person has, I can't help but think about that passage from Job when Job puts God on the spot for all of his own sufferings, how God could allow such a thing. And for over two chapters, God expounds upon the basic point: "Where were you, Job, when I created the world? Do you command the waters and the skies and they obey you? Who are you to understand all that I am? Who are you to judge the Almighty?"

And while that's not the tone I'd like to take with this person, essentially that is what is going on, judging God for His ways. But God's ways are perfect, though they are far past our understanding.

When I entered the seminary, the vocation director for my diocese had a long talk with me about submission to God's will. He cited Our Lord's choice of the twelve apostles. No man on earth would choose such a disparate, lowly, uneducated, unruly bunch of men to become leaders. Yet God's ways are so superior to our own, and His wisdom exceeds ours like the heavens are above the earth, that we cannot see before us what He is doing. There comes a point that we must let go and trust Him. We must submit to His will and rather than judge His actions, we ought to then ask, "What part can I do? How may I help, Lord?"

I suppose this person ought to pray for those who may be lost. Pray hard, and give witness by example. Show love through action, and when that loves sparks curiosity, explain the source of our hope. Explain about the love of Jesus Christ.

But before we can ever be sent out on the mission, we must know Him.

John, chapter 10: verses

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
12 He who is a hireling and not a shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
13 He flees because he is a hireling and cares nothing for the sheep.
14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me,
15 as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
16 And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.
17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;
28 and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.

1 comment:

PattyinCT said...

Beautiful! Very profound and your response is full of the Spirit of the Lord: righteousness and truth. Great job!