Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Like a grain of dust that tips the scales


555 words, 3 min read

Sunday’s first reading, from the book of Wisdom (11:22-12:2), has been constantly on my mind since I first heard it. In fact, I could barely focus on the rest of the mass and I kept reading and re-reading it round and round. It stopped me dead in my tracks and made my wandering mind focus and delight.

It opens with a beautiful, verbal equivalent of chiaroscuro:
11:22 In your sight, Lord, the whole world is like a grain of dust that tips the scales, like a drop of morning dew falling on the ground.
The world is but a grain of dust, yet it is not insignificant; it tips the scales. It is a nothing that makes a difference. It is like a single drop of water, by itself inconsequential, yet as part of the morning dew it sustains life. In this one line there is, at the same time, a powerful sense of imbalance between God and us, His creatures, and of the colossally disproportionate tenderness He has for us.
11:23 Yet you are merciful to all, because you can do all things and overlook men’s sins so that they can repent.
It is because of God’s omnipotence that He overlooks our failings. His mercy is a consequence of His all-powerfulness. His strength flourishes in overlooking, veiling our flaws. Wisdom peaks in willful ignorance, out of love.
11:24 Yes, you love all that exists, you hold nothing of what you have made in abhorrence, for had you hated anything, you would not have formed it.
Who are God’s chosen people? Who are His favorites? In whom does He delight? In all! In every single being. It could be no different, since it is He who has made all that is. “Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being but through him.” (John 1:3) And why would He make something He hates? Being by itself is proof of God’s love. I am because God loves me. You are because God loves you. Every single being is because God loves it.
11:25 And how, had you not willed it, could a thing persist, how be conserved if not called forth by you?
The very thought of something existing against God’s will is absurd. What blasphemy! What utter logical contradiction!
11:26 You spare all things because all things are yours, Lord, lover of life,
12:1 you whose imperishable spirit is in all.
To destroy His creatures, God would have to destroy His own imperishable self that inhabits and sustains them. He would have to pit His own irresistible force against the immovable object of His own self. What a silly, childish exercise that would be! God is no circus strongman, He is the lover of life!
12:2 Little by little, therefore, you correct those who offend, you admonish and remind them of how they have sinned, so that they may abstain from evil and trust in you, Lord.
What does love for His creatures look like? Does His love for all equal an anything-goes attitude? No. God wants all to choose Him, to love Him freely. So, instead of destroying them when they turn away from Him, He gently, little-by-little nudges, hints, coaxes us towards himself. He invites us to trust Him, as the antidote to evil.