Fellowship of Catholic Scholars
Teaching the Faith
Two of this Sunday’s liturgical readings advert to a topic seldom broached in contemporary homiletics: divine punishment in this life. The reading from Exodus, like Jesus’s own preaching, describes God as loving and “compassionate” (22.26). But it also presents God, precisely because of this compassion, as vindictive: “If you ever wrong [any widow or orphan] and they cry out to me . . . My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword” (22.21-22). In the First Letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul profiles the good news of the Gospel against a rather ominous background, recalling that the risen Jesus “delivers us fr om the coming wrath” (1 Thess 1.10). This raises a pastorally delicate question: Is God still in the business of punishing us? If so, can we identify which sufferings in the world represent divine punishment?
Pidel, Aaron, "Divine Compassion and Divine Punishment" (2020). Theology Faculty Research and Publications. 848.
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