Sometimes within the readings for the day, a verse just leaps off the page at you, to the extent that you need to stop what you're doing and ponder what it means to your own spiritual walk.
Such is the case within today's readings, and in the title of this piece. What is the verse? The first part of the verse is deep enough, saying:
"But he who sins against Me wrongs his own soul;"
God is righteous. Anything we do that is counter to the will of God is sin. And for many recognizing this conjures up images of an angry and vengeful God Who wants to execute judgment upon every sinner who strays.
But if that were true, then the words of the Psalmist would ring true: "If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?" (Ps 130:3) Indeed, there would be no point in attempting repentance, for such a god would show himself as one who is only ready to judge.
Thankfully, that's not at all what Scripture, but most especially the teachings of our Lord, says to us. David's next words from the same Psalm ring with God's unbounded love for us: "But there is forgiveness with You!" (V4) I have hope! We ALL have hope!!!
Within the words at the start of this piece, we find that our sins, while certainly "against" God, are more pointedly acts which attack our own spiritual essence. We serve a forgiving God, a loving God, Who "desires not the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his ways and live." (Eze 18:23) Indeed, God rejoices in us when we return to Him, as our Lord Himself bears witness: "I say to you that there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance." (Luke 15:7) Heaven would be a joyless place indeed if it needed to wait to welcome even one of us who needed no repentance!
The second portion of the phrase from Proverbs is equally compelling. It says, "All those who hate Me love death." What an indictment of the world around us is contained in these words? For the world has gone mad over rejecting faith in general, and God in particular. The world has no need for God. Mankind trusts in itself. The buzz-phrase of the day is, "Follow the science!"
Neil deGrasse Tyson is a famous and highly visible (present on many science broadcasts) physicist who unabashedly attacks faith and God. In one of his quotes he says this: "If you don't understand something and the community of physicists don't understand it, that means God did it? Is that how you want to play this game? If that's how you want to invoke your evidence for God, then God is an ever-receding pocket of scientific ignorance that's getting smaller and smaller and smaller as time moves on." The arrogance of his words uses an argument tool that implies that because one can explain somthing it means that he or she is the "master" of the topic or issue. It's a clever method used when attempting to disarm an opponent. However, the tool is dispelled like a wisp of smoke when one applies even a modicum of thought to the issue. The fact that a "scientist" can explain an observed behavior of creation is offered as a defense that they themselves have equaled the level of the Creator. It is akin to saying, "You believe in God because He said, 'Let there be light, and there was light.' But I can make light, too. Here's my flashlight, and I understand everything there is to know about the light bulb, the battery, and the switch. I have equaled your 'god'."
Dear scientist/physicist/intellectual: Go into the quiet of your laboratory and using no portion of the Creation that surrounds you that is already His, create from nothingness the photon that constitutes the light. I'm not asking to recreate the cosmos, nor even to fashion something alive. Just one photon, please. That flashlight? It produces about four billion billions of photons (that's a quintillion) - every second. Please, show me just ONE that is created by your "wisdom".
You see, those who deny God's presence, His very existence, don't need to say that they "hate" Him. The message is clear within their words - and their attitudes.
Denying God is the spiritual equivalent of denying eternal life. This means eternal death. And in the denial of God, that is the "hope" that such perspectives are embracing. The world's hope is hopelessness. "Has God not made foolish the wisdom of this world? ... But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks, foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the poewr of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1Cor 1:20-25)
As we walk the path toward our Lord's Passion, as we ponder our own fallenness, our need for repentance, and His unlimited love for us through His forgiveness of all we confess, let us be moved to greater prayer for a world that seems to be rushing away from Him, rushing toward nothingness, like the swine released from poor Legion (Mark 5:1-13). Let us change what He has given us the grace to be able to change - ourselves. And in that change, perhaps the world around us will be able to find His image in what we, in our imperfection, can manage to reflect of Him. And perhaps those who deny Him may come to accept and desire Him by what they find in us!