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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Bishop Barron - Those Who are Just Must be Kind

Bishop Barron - Those Who are Just Must be Kind

Bishop Barron - Those Who are Just Must be Kind

Peace be with you. Friends, this weekend, we have the privilege of hearing from the wonderful book of Wisdom. Now, scholars say the book of Wisdom was maybe the last book written in the Old Testament. So a lot of the Old Testament texts are from, let's say, around the year 500 BC to near the time of Jesus in that little 500-year period. And the book of Wisdom is written toward the very end of that period. It's a wonderful text. It's a series of sayings and aphorisms. You don't have to read it so much cover to cover, but you know, leaf through it, muse through it as you read these passages. Well, as you'd expect, a major theme of the book of Wisdom is God's wisdom. But two other themes I think are his power and his love. What I want to do in this brief sermon is try to think together those three things: God's wisdom, God's power, and God's love.

So our reading for today is taken from the twelfth chapter of the book of Wisdom. You might want to get home and take a look at your Bibles and read that chapter twelve. But I want to go back just a little bit before chapter twelve to a passage in the book of Wisdom that my spiritual hero, St. Thomas Aquinas, especially loved. And here's the passage. Referring to God's wisdom it says, "She reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well". She, wisdom, reaches mightily from one end of the earth to the other, and she orders all things well. Okay. So what's included in the divine providence? Everything. Everything, without exception. What does God have supervision over? Well, everything in his creation, from end to end. In both ancient and modern thought, there's a temptation to see God as kind of a distant power. The modern form we call deism, so God is a distant force that made the universe and then basically retired, leaving it to its own devices.

God is, oh, maybe concerned with some high elements of creation, but God isn't concerned with the details of things. Well, that might be a view both ancient and modern, but it just is not biblical. Here is again Thomas Aquinas reflecting very much the scriptural consensus. He says, "God is in all things by essence, presence, and power". And then he adds "intime," which means most intimately so. God is in all things, not just high things, not just some elements of his creation, God is in all things, by essence, presence, and power, and most intimately so. Another way to state this: I was reminded of this by a friend of mine, Michael Leach, who's retired now, but he was the head of Crossroad Press and then Orbis Press, and he brought out a couple of my books early on in my writing career. And Mike, who would have been raised on the Baltimore Catechism, said "Remember the question in the Baltimore Catechism: Where is God? Answer? Everywhere". And when you get that, Michael Leach said, your whole spiritual life will change. And it's true, isn't it?

Where is God? "Oh, up there somewhere, back there somewhere in the past". No; wrong answers. Where is God? Everywhere. And see the Baltimore catechism was just reflecting Thomas Aquinas, who said he's in all things. And Thomas Aquinas was simply reflecting the book of Wisdom: that God's wisdom and providence extends from end to end mightily and orders all things sweetly. Beautiful, huh? Now, in light of that, let's turn to the passage for today. Here it is. "For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people... You are righteous and you rule all things righteously". Again, not some people you rule righteously, not some things, all people, all things come under God's wise providence. "Your might," we hear, "is the source of justice". So God, stretching from end to end mightily, ordering all things sweetly, according to his righteousness and justice. That's the biblical view. Maybe just one more connection from the great tradition.

Someone I've quoted often before, the great seventeenth-century Jesuit master Jean Pierre de Caussade, he said this: everything that happens is in some sense the will of God. Now, he meant either directly, God directly wants this to happen, or at the very least, God is permitting it to happen. Okay? Simple idea, reflecting this whole tradition, going back to the book of Wisdom. Whatever is happening is somehow ingredient in the divine providence God's wise governance of the world. Where is God? Everywhere, in all things, and all of our experience, no matter what is happening to you. Now, mind you: good or bad. See? It might be striking me as, "That's a great thing for me," or "That's a dangerous thing". But everything either directly or permissively is part of God's will. May I suggest everybody: your life changes radically when you let that idea sink into your heart. There you are, stuck in traffic, cursing my bad luck. A Christian shouldn't see it as just bad luck. Somehow, God is permitting that to happen. Maybe to invite you to pray. "I'm being persecuted by my enemies".

Okay; maybe it's an invitation for you to love and pray for your enemies. God is about something. Our task is to surrender to the divine will. Okay. I know what you might be thinking. You might be thinking, "Okay, Bishop, I get it. And I get how those words can be very comforting in one sense. But can we be honest? They're also a little bit puzzling". Okay. So God is involved in all things by essence, presence, and power. Where is God? Everywhere. What comes under his providence? Everything. "Okay, Bishop, then how come the world doesn't look like it's being governed by a wise providence all the time? How come it looks like the world is full of incompleteness and suffering and injustice? How could you make this claim in the wake of the Holocaust, this moral outrage of the first degree from the last century? I mean, it sounds nice, the universality of God's providence, but how do you make sense of this"? Well, to answer that, we'd have to do a whole course on the problem of suffering.

Can I suggest though just one way to get at it? And remember Caussade: God's will, either directly or permissively, so evil is at least permitted by God. But here's a way to get at it perhaps. Think of the experience of traveling on the freeway when it's under construction, so not in great shape, and you just kind of go sailing along and you get where you want to go, but the freeway is under construction. Well, you're going to get where you're going, but it's going to be a little slow, a lot frustrating. Things won't go the way you want. Another image. Suppose you're making your way through an artist's studio. And I've had that experience a few times, when you go to a great artist where they work. So you're not seeing the completed work on a pedestal or the completed work on the wall of a museum. What you're seeing is their workshop. What's it like? Well, it's kind of a mess, to tell you the truth, most artists' workshops I've been in. There might be a couple of pieces there that are close to completion, beautiful.

But a lot of it is kind of messy and incomplete and you might get a vague sense of what the artist is up to. It's kind of a hodgepodge, kind of a mess in an artist's studio. What's the world like? It's like a highway under construction. What's God doing? God is making the world righteous. He's in the process of justifying things. Who is God? He's like an artist. What's the world? It's like an artist's studio. Sometimes we can see the completed masterpieces, think of the great saints, but most of God's workshop, it's kind of a hodgepodge. It's kind of a mess. Things are on their way. We're making our way through this highway under construction, through this artist's workshop. Can we trust, though, that all of it is under, finally, the divine guidance, the divine wisdom, the divine providence? Okay? At this point, I want to make a transition to another insight from this very brief reading we have from wisdom But gosh, it's packed full of insight. And here's the transition. So we've heard about God's all-embracing power.

And you might say, now, we're all sinners here, we sinners might say, "Wow, wouldn't that be great to have all that power? Oh, what I would do? I'd reward those who are kind to me, I'd punish my enemies, I'd make sure that I had total control of my life". I would exercise that absolute power probably in a pretty aggressive way. But listen now to the book of Wisdom. "Your mastery [O Lord] over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved". That's wonderful, isn't it? Your mastery over all things, so there it is, stretching from end to end mightily; God's great power, his providential authority. It makes him, not aggressive, not domineering, but rather lenient to all. Whom is he specially kind to? Those who disbelieve it. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved. I think, everybody, we're getting very close here to the heart of biblical revelation, indeed, to the heart of Christ. One of St. Paul's most extraordinary claims has to do with power.

Listen to this from 1 Corinthians: "For God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength". Where is the power of God disclosed? And it's the paradox at the heart of Christianity. It's disclosed, not in some mighty earthly king exercising authority. That's people like Caesar Augustus. God's power is revealed, not there, but rather in this man writhing in pain, tortured to death on the cross. That's God's power. That's what God's all-embracing power looks like. Now, why? Because through that act, God offered to the world the forgiveness of sins. See, now something else opens up, doesn't it? Something else opens up. How does God set things right? How does God bring that highway to repair? How does God complete the work in his artist's studio?

Precisely through the power of his forgiving love. That's where the power of God is revealed: in the non-power, in human terms, of the cross. How about one last step as I bring it to a close? Again from our passage today from the book of Wisdom. "And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind". He's been talking about God's wisdom, God's providence, God's power, God's love. Now, having seen all of that, what should we be like as we exercise power? Do not let it be an exercise in domination, in self-serving, lording it over others. But rather may our exercise of power be like unto God's exercise of power, expressed precisely through lenience, precisely through forgiveness, precisely through love. Praise be to God, whose providence extends from end to end and embraces all things mightily. God orders the world sweetly, precisely by the power of love. So should we within our arena of responsibility. And God bless you.
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