A Strange and Elusive God

Twenty-third Sunday The first reading (Wis 9:13-18b) offers a perspective that seems at odds with much that is claimed: often in the Scripture, predictably in homilies, surely in popular pronouncement. The Book of Wisdom, likely the youngest book in the Old Testament, speaks of the gap between what we ascribe to God and what may be so. Radical uncertainty. This is the Job question: can God have criteria quite at odds with our human sense of justice? The lectionary throws the Wisdom viewpoint against other texts. The entrance antiphon praises God: "Your judgments are just." Do we know that, believe it, count on it, decide it? What judgments are we thinking of, and how are we figuring? Is God’s judgment the good that happens to us–-and especially the misfortune that befalls our opponents? When we face death with the psalmist, old age and chains with Paul–-or when our opponents do: Is that God’s true justice? When a suicide bomber claims certainty about God’s desires, why do we refuse it? If we know but feebly, how can we do what Jesus counsels in his two vivid images: calculate costs? Philip Sheldrake urges that we allow God to be "strange and elusive rather than familiar or domestic...."* That seems right, especially when we celebrate our own good fortune or the evil that befalls another, lest we too simplistically valorize as God’s what we most desire ourselves. Barbara Green, OP

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