GOD’S REGRET AND HUMAN REDEMPTION

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Homily for Tues of the 6th Wk in OT, Memorial of Sts. Cyril and Methodius, Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2023. Mk 8:14-21

The image of a God who seems to be helpless and suffering is not an invention of Christianity. It is already there in Judaism, right in the very first book of the Old Testament—Genesis 6,5-10, our first reading today. It is the introduction to the familiar story of Noah’s Ark, which saved Noah’s family from the Big Flood that destroyed the earth.

This story is just as scandalous as the later New Testament portrayal of God suffering and dying on the cross like a criminal, in order to redeem the world. Can you imagine God saying to himself: “I will allow them all to be destroyed, for I am sorry that I created them at all!” The author says God’s heart was so grieved because humankind had been contaminated with so much evil, they were already on the path of self-destruction. The author suggests that they were beyond redemption, except for Noah and his family.

In the Gospel, Jesus is described in almost the same way by the writer. He is also grieved and overwhelmed by his disciples, by their hardness of heart and their lack of understanding. Mark simply says the disciples “had forgotten to bring bread and had only one loaf with them.”

It looks like they had not really forgotten; they had done it on purpose! That is why Jesus is warning them to guard “against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” If a teeny-weeny bit of yeast can make a whole mass of dough rise, evil can work in exactly the same way. You cannot imagine its capacity to corrupt.

I think it was obvious to Jesus that his own apostles were trying to manipulate him. They did not forget; they brought only one loaf of bread on purpose. Now they are playing innocent that they forgot. If with 5 loaves he had fed 5 thousand people and they had collected 12 baskets of leftovers, and with 7 loaves he had managed to feed 4 thousand and they collected 7 baskets of leftovers, how many would he be able to feed with one loaf? Do the mathematics. I call it the math of deceitfulness.

And yet, Jesus does not give up on them. The twist from the Old to the New Testament is clear—while before, God allowed humankind to take the path of self-destruction, this time God would take the final option for humankind’s redemption. He would take the suffering upon himself! Remember how he said to the soldiers when he was about to be arrested? “If it’s me you’re looking for, let these men go and take me in.”

What a set of readings these are for Valentine’s Day! But it is the basic Christian statement that the only antidote to evil and its contagion is UNCONDITIONAL LOVE, learning to love as God has loved us in Jesus of Nazareth. Learning to love in a manner that is ready and willing to suffer and die for the redemption of the beloved, even when they don’t deserve it.

They say many of those building that collapsed in Turkey and were flattened like pancakes were very obviously substandard. They had been built by corrupt developers who, for love of money, would economize on stability and compromise thousands of lives. Many of them have been running away lately to escape arrest by the authorities. It is also not far-fetched that such substandard buildings were allowed to be built because some government authorities had been bribed. It tells us how rotten to the core some people can get, for love of money.

And yet, the good news is, God does not give up on us. Haven’t we heard of children surviving under he rubble because they were protected by their mothers or fathers who died in doing so? Haven’t we been hearing the newsreports about the help that has been pouring in, not through government but through the initiatives of private citizens and nameless volunteers from around the world? You see, if the contagion of evil is strong, the reverse contagion of good, of unconditional love, is even more powerful! We are not hopeless; we are not a failure, after all. And that’s the good news.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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