Summary: Why does God not put an end to all the terror and sin? Because of His loving forbearance, which we are called to participate in.
24th and Last Sunday After Pentecost
Today’s Introit antiphon speaks for God: "I think thoughts of peace, not affliction. You shall call upon me and I will hear, and bring you back from your captivity all over the world." The Gradual speaks of our affirmation that the Lord has liberated us, the afflicted. So why, every last Sunday of the liturgical year, do we hear what sounds like a prediction of doom and gloom, darkened sun and moon and falling stars in the wake of false prophets? If the Lord thinks thoughts of peace, why is there so much trouble in the world: governments that will not allow the free practice of religion, jihadist terrorists who murder randomly in the streets of Paris and the Sinai, Christians being murdered all over the world?
It’s enough to ask whether God cares, or whether He has any power to control human events. Where is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who brought the Hebrews across the sea, who caused the Catholic Church to spread throughout the known world? Where is the wonder-worker of Galilee whose sacrifice we celebrate and share each time we come together? Why do the good suffer and the evildoers prosper?
Knowing what a mess the world finds itself in, many Christians pray intently, “Come Lord Jesus.” That is, come and blow the whistle on all this corruption and violence. Make your Lordship felt among the rich and powerful, the politicians and financiers who oppress the poor and manipulate the economy. Smite the evildoers; destroy ISIS; rescue Your people from their trials. Don’t we all, from time to time or either continually, wish to hear the sound of the last trumpet? Don’t we long to see the last lightning coming from the east and lighting up the sky, and the sign of the Son of Man shining in the heavens? Isn’t it about time the Father bring an end to all this sin and shame and death?
Millions of dollars are spent just in this country every year by people looking to the future for an end-of-age event. Some buy end-times and survivalist novels. Others lay in months of supplies. Evangelists pull huge sums with their writings about why Jesus will be returning this year, or next year, or ten years ago. I recall a couple of decades ago there was a whole series of books called the “Left Behind” series, that even spawned a movie or two. And over forty years ago there was a book called The Late, Great Planet Earth, that outlined exactly how the final battles between good and evil would play out, in the 1970s.
They were all false prophets. They are all false prophets. Jesus told us quite distinctly that no one could know the final day or hour. The Father alone knew. Even Jesus in His human nature did not know. That Jesus will return in glory with all the angels in saints is an article of faith. When Jesus will return is unknown and unknowable. So why not now?
St. Paul taught us about the loving kindness and forbearance of God. Forbearance is God’s way of dealing with ignorant sinners. And in a culture that celebrates evildoing and screams bloody murder at anyone who tells the truth about sin, it is very, very easy to be an ignorant sinner. Think of those unmarried couples who are living together in open defiance of God’s clear warning about sexual union outside marriage. The culture encourages them with TV shows and movies and celebrity couples’ cohabitation. The government works to force companies to treat them as if they were married. It’s quite easy for them to look around, see the collapsing Christian culture, and assume that marriage–lifelong commitment to one partner–is passe. We know the results, of course. Single parenthood–if not abortion. Broken hearts. Abandonment. Ignorance does not lead to bliss. Ignorance of the law of God is the fast protocol to personal catastrophe, to family breakdown, to children without fathers.
God does not smite the sinner and destroy the evil cities because He loves us. He wants us to turn to Him in repentance, convert, and be healed. He is constantly the good Shepherd going in search of lost sheep. He is always the Father who like a chump watches for the return of the Prodigal son. He’d rather be considered a wimpy chump than lose any of us for eternity. God loves the murderer, prostitute and pimp. God longs for the income tax cheat and the gossip.
Now if Our Lord returned tomorrow nobody would be happier than I. We would all rejoice on the day of the Lord. But when that whistle blows, the game is over. General judgement. No second chance. It would be the day of God’s triumph, but at the cost of losing many souls who Jesus died to save. The only analogy I can think of is of the human family. Which of us mothers or fathers wants to give up on a son or daughter mired in alcoholism, sexual addiction, pornography or drug abuse? Don’t we pray for them and live in hope until the very last moment of their lives, or our own? God’s love for us sinners is infinitely greater even than that of a human parent for the child. So He forbears, and doesn’t mind being thought a chump for doing so.