Advent Journal: Day 13

christ-driving-the-money-changers-from-the-temple-nasko-dimov

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare this generation?
It is like children who sit in the marketplaces and call to one another,
‘We piped you a tune, but you did not dance,
we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said,
‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”                  Matthew 11:16-19

If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea.        Isaiah 47:17-19

Blessed is the man who walks not
in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat with scoffers;
But the law of the LORD is his delight.                        Psalm 1:1-2

The Lord, coming into his own creation in visible form, was sustained by his own creation which he himself sustains in being. His obedience on the tree of the cross reversed the disobedience at the tree in Eden; the good news of the truth announced by an angel to Mary, a virgin subject to a husband, undid the evil lie that seduced Eve, a virgin espoused to a husband.                     -St. Irenaeus, “Against Heresies”

What do we do with our lives, when we suffer injustice, and there is no recompense for it?  It is the obvious problem with that most wonderful of Psalms, the first in the Psalter:  “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but way the of the wicked shall perish.”  It is true that, according to our faith, they will get what they deserve in the next life.  But in this life, they don’t seem to suffer much at all.  The Book of Job is the standing rebuke to the idea that an overly literal understanding of the first Psalm.  And yet, it points to a not so obvious truth, that unpunished injustice obscures:  everyone suffers.  Yes, even the unjust who get to enjoy the fruits of their evils, even if not directly for their crimes.

Of course, in another sense, we await the punishment of those crimes; we await the return of Christ to judge us and them, those who have harmed us.  The first coming of Christ, which we celebrate in Advent, is something that presages this, as Irenaeus makes clear:  just as the primordial evil was committed by Eve under the influence of Satan, so Mary inaugurates our redemption at the influence of Gabriel.  It is the inevitable triumph of God, we proclaim, even though we experience it as something contingent, uncertain.  This is why we slough off God’s commandments, grant ourselves exemptions from being punished for our sins. After all, if God is waiting so long to come again, to judge us all for our sins, what harm is it if we indulge in this or that sin, since we do not mean to break all of God’s laws, just those that are convenient for us to break (in a small way, some venial sin, pornography, “safe sex,” something short of murder, basically)?

Christ calls this out for the bullshit that it is:  “we piped you a tune but you did not dance, we sang you a dirge but you did not mourn.”  We have created codes of etiquette for our selves, rituals of civility and sociability that substitute for truth.  Why?  Because when we have broken God’s covenant once, we do not stop there, but go on granting our selves exceptions.  So we have to invent something else to keep us from falling into emotional and moral chaos.  This, we call “civilization,” and its rules “civility,” or “politeness.” And as long as you sing along the same tune with everyone else, condemn what the world condemns, mourn what it mourns, you will suffer no trouble in this life.  But if you do not?  Then you are “possessed by a demon” and not fit for polite society.

Of course, there is more to it than this; but even what good there is in these things, if it is separated from God’s laws, can lead us astray.  And this is what the Gospel call us to, especially in this season of Advent:  to be watchful, to fast, to pray, to repent of our sins, and remember that the injustices we commit will not go unpunished forever.

 

~ by Alypius on December 15, 2017.

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