Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Theodicy and My "duh!" moment.

Here are my favorite verses from psalm 34, which appeared   in this past Saturday's Daytime Prayer:

The Lord is close to the broken hearted
those whose spirit is crushed he will save.
Many are the trials of the just man
but from them all the Lord will rescue him.

Theodicy is a fancy word for what C.S. Lewis called the problem of pain. How can a  loving God permit blah, blah, blah, to happen? Much ink has been spilled over this. The least unsatisfactory answers are: 1. God brings good out of evil and 2. We can't possibly comprehend God's plan for the universe, let alone for our lives. This, the answer the Lord gave to Job, is supplemented by the New Testament, which tells us that eventually, "every tear will be wiped away."

I have no great wisdom to add to this theological conundrum. In fact, I am embarrassed to admit it, but years ago  I was shocked, shocked! when some trials  entered my own life. Although I'd studied enough theology to know better, my reaction the first time my husband lost his job, was, "Wait! No! You have the wrong family, Lord.  We're the ones who keep the laws of the Church, who never use birth control and have generously accepted seven children into our lives. We homeschool! We pray as a family!"

So even though I knew on one level that God permitted people who were much holier than I to be imprisoned,martyred, suffer from horrible diseases, etc., on another level I had the odd notion that I would be rewarded with a minimally painful life, here in this world, if I maintained a certain level of comittment to faith and morals.   Quid pro quo. Silly, silly girl.

I'd never really gotten the message of psalm 34, despite having read it many times in my breviary over the years. But eventually, it dawned on me:

It doesn't say your heart will never be broken, but that He is close to you when it is.

 It doesn't say your spirit will never be crushed, but that he'll save you when it is.

It doesn't say the just man won't have trials, but that God will  rescue the just man from those trials. (And as we know, the rescue occurs according to God's schedule, not ours. That's the hard part.)

How on earth did I miss that for so many years?  That's why it's so good to pray the psalter year after year. Eventually, what our Father is trying to tell us starts to sink in.


  1. James I. McAuleyMay 10, 2012 at 11:40 AM

    This is what Pius Parsch has to say of Psalm 34 (33 Vulgate): "This very beautiful and consoling psalm assures us that God never abandons his children. He rescues them from every peril and rewards them richly. Like a refrain, four times repeated, on mighty theme stands out: The just man cries out to God, and God delivers him from every peril. . . Psalm 33 was a great favorite among the early Christians and was often chanted as a Communion hymn during holy Mass."

    1. I'll bet it was a favorite with the Earlies. Very consoling in times of persecution, and for that reason may soon become a great favorite of us heretofore coddled American Catholics.