This post, and its sequel, are a way of me trying to make sense of all that is currently going on, especially in light of the Gospel.
We are living through strange times. The world seems gripped in a deathly panic, the living for the most part entombing themselves at home. Mortality seems to be on the minds of many, yet the Bride, whose mission it is to proclaim that Life is victorious, having trampled down death by death, remains silent. The faithful prepare for a most peculiar Pascha this year.
At home we have been making our way, for these past few months, through the Pentateuch. This past week we finished the book of Leviticus, and while I know that context is everything, many of the warnings given to the Israelites at the end of the book seem so apropos to the day and age we live in.
We are told nowadays (and by churchmen no less!) that God does not punish; He does not chastise; that Christianity has surpassed that outmoded view. And yet, reflecting on my own experience as a parent, if one truly loves one’s children, does he not find himself on certain occasions obliged to punish them? After all exhortations and entreaties have been tried, sometimes punishment is all that is left to keep the child from coming to harm and from harming others. If it is so for us and our children, is it not even more-so the case for our heavenly father and His wayward children? The Scriptures and the Fathers attest to it.
Modern man seems to have decided not to walk in the ways of the Lord, and to reject even the natural law that was given to be known by reason. He has become vain in his thoughts and, as a consequence of a darkened heart, has enshrined as a right in so many places “the abominations of the gentiles”, as they are called in Leviticus. As a prodigal he has taken his part of the inheritance and gone off to foreign lands, squandering his birthright. Are we to be surprised then when tragedy strikes because of the son’s stubbornness, ignoring the Father’s continual pleas to come home?
We are afflicted by illness and while it is not yet over another danger – a global recession – already looms over the horizon. Streets are mostly empty of people, baring essential goings and comings; the skies are empty save for birds. The world, superficially at least, has come to a halt; it has become silent. It brought to my mind:
Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths all the days of her desolation: […], she shall keep a sabbath, and rest in the sabbaths of her desolation, because she did not rest in your sabbaths when you dwelt therein.
The previous chapters of Leviticus spoke of the Sabbath and Jubilee years, when even the land was to rest. Is this “curse” not an indictment against the rampant consumerism we see around us, and of which we all are guilty, either directly or indirectly?
The land must give forth its fruit when we want; economies need to be kept going at all cost and demand must be incentivized by appealing to our basest appetites. It is not necessity that drives us to labour, but lust (in the old sense) and avarice. Not only the first fruits, but all fruits are to be given to Mammon. And so Man is no longer steward and priest of the cosmos, but has come to see himself as external to it, seeing himself as its master and ravager. He has become a wicked tenant.
Yet perhaps the most striking “curse” found is one that finds an eerie parallel in our current ecclesial situation, but which at the same time may also be a cause for hope. On this, however, I’ll write in another post.