Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Injustice – What Are We To Do?

Protestants have always accused Catholics of not being sufficiently focused on sacred Scripture; that we place too much emphasis on other sources for our Faith, like sacred Tradition.  Yet, there are days, like today, when I wonder how many times the Old Testament books like Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Zephaniah, or, as is the case in this mornings first reading for Matins, Habakkuk, is ever read by the critics of Catholicism?

I think that even we as Catholics do not realise or lose sight of the degree to which our Catholic Faith is saturated with sacred Scripture.  Our liturgy, what we say at Mass, both what the priest says and our responses, are all saturated with sacred Scripture.  Even the daily prayers in the Divine Office, with prayers scheduled for 7 periods of each day, is filled to the brim with sacred Scripture.  It would be well worth our while to ponder this occasionally.

With that introduction, let me get onto what I really wanted to write about today.  In light of all the injustice we see in the world, it is often difficult to believe that there is a loving God who cares about all that is happening.  When we see and hear that miners were shot in the back while running away from the police; that our country continues to legally permit mothers to kill their unborn babies and may also soon be engulfed in the issue of legalised euthanasia; is it any wonder that we occasionally lose heart?  Is it any wonder that we consider resorting to man made solutions?

I found the reading from the prophet Habakkuk[1] today helpful.  It shows that we are not alone in our musings on the injustices of this world and we are not the first.  Here are some portions of the reading from Habakkuk to make my point – its too long to put the whole reading here:

How long, O Lord, am I to cry for help
while you will not listen;
to cry ‘Oppression!’ in your ear
and you will not save?
Why do you set injustice before me,
why do you look on where there is tyranny?
Outrage and violence, this is all I see,
all is contention, and discord flourishes.
And so the law loses its hold,
and justice never shows itself.
Yes, the wicked man gets the better of the upright,
and so justice is seen to be distorted.

It goes on…

Your eyes are too pure to rest on wickedness,
you cannot look on at tyranny.
Why do you look on while men are treacherous,
and stay silent while the evil man swallows a better man than he?
You treat mankind like fishes in the sea,
like creeping, masterless things.
A people, these, who catch all on their hook,
who draw them with their net,
in their dragnet gather them,
and so, triumphantly, rejoice.
At this, they offer a sacrifice to their net,
and burn incense to their dragnet,
for providing them with luxury
and lavish food.
Are they then to empty their net unceasingly,
slaughtering nations without pity?

And then the wonderful answer from God…

Then the Lord answered and said,
‘Write the vision down,
inscribe it on tablets
to be easily read,
since this vision is for its own time only:
eager for its own fulfilment, it does not deceive;
if it comes slowly, wait,
for come it will, without fail.

We must not be impatient… We must stand on our watchtowers and wait for the Lord.  We must not lose heart and rely on the fragile worldly defences.

For those who are interested, below is the second reading for Matins for today.  It is a homily by St Bernard[2] and it refers to this reading from Habakkuk:

I shall stand upon my watchtower to see what the Lord will say to me

We read in the gospel that when the Lord was teaching his disciples and urged them to share in his passion by the mystery of eating his body, some said: This is a hard saying, and from that time they no longer followed him.  When he asked the disciples whether they also wished to go away, they replied: Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.

I assure you, my brothers, that even to this day it is clear to some that the words which Jesus speaks are spirit and life, and for this reason they follow him.  To others these words seem hard, and so they look elsewhere for some pathetic consolation.  Yet wisdom cries out in the streets, in the broad and spacious way that leads to death, to call back those who take this path.  Finally, he says: For forty years I have been close to this generation, and I said: They have always been faint-hearted.  You also read in another psalm: God has spoken once.  Once, indeed, because forever.  His is a single, uninterrupted utterance, because it is continuous and unending.

He calls upon sinners to return to their true spirit and rebukes them when their hearts have gone astray, for it is in the true heart that he dwells and there he speaks, fulfilling what he taught through the prophet: Speak to the heart of Jerusalem.  You see, my brothers, how the prophet admonishes us for our advantage: If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.  You can read almost the same words in the gospel and in the prophet.  For in the gospel the Lord says: My sheep hear my voice.  And in the psalm blessed David says: You are his people (meaning, of course, the Lord’s) and the sheep of his pasture.  If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.

Hear also the prophet Habakkuk in today’s reading.  Far from hiding the Lord’s reprimands, he dwells on them with attentive and anxious care.  He says: I will stand upon my watch-tower and take up my post on the ramparts, keeping watch to see what he will say to me and what answer I will make to those who try to confute me.  I beg you, my brothers, stand upon our watchtower, for now is the time for battle.  Let all our dealings be in the heart, where Christ dwells, in right judgement and wise counsel, but in such a way as to place no confidence in those dealings, nor rely upon our fragile defences.

[1] Habakkuk 1:1-2:4
[2] De diversis 5, 1 - 4

1 comment:

  1. A new parishioner who converted from Protestantism commented that she had far greater exposure to sacred Scripture now than as a Protestant.
    Concerning the SA regime's support of abortion etc, one should ask the Church hierarchy why a priest was allowed to be an ANC MP and abstain from the vote on abortion.