There’s a lot to be said for the Old Testament God.
Tomorrow morning I will read at Mass from the book of the prophet Jeremiah:
Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”
Yesterday I celebrated an anniversary that I never know how to mark. It’s been seven years since I lost my faith at the hands of some bad shepherds, some people I’ve written about elsewhere and don’t feel like addressing here. I never write about it anymore, not because I don’t want to, but because I’m so scared of that becoming the single story that’s told about me.
But it’s been a rough week. It’s been a rough month, actually, as someone who knew a certain cardinal, who knew survivors of his sins, who was affected indirectly by what he did, who wrote letters to bishops, who was too young to know as much as I knew, and who has had to walk under the weight of it for too long. It’s been rough, because as vindicated and grateful as I feel as I watch everyone perform their anger, I resent myself for wanting to perform my sadness. When you approach human suffering you are on holy ground. Take off your shoes. Listen.
This is the name they give him: the Lord our justice. That reads like love to me. The Old Testament God is love. He is love who protects the downtrodden and punishes their enemies, and he is love who goes into exile to bring them home, to bring me home.
I’ve been wondering whether or not to write about this anniversary, to mark it, and I’ve decided that the impulse that tells me to keep quiet is the one who’s afraid of an evil that God saved me from a long time ago. The impulse that tells me to proclaim his love from the rooftops is never wrong. So I want to mark it by saying thank you. Thank you for bringing me home. Thank you for being my justice. Thank you for teaching me that forgiveness does not mean falling silent, forgetfulness, because nothing ever happened—but rather forgiveness is shouting gladly that the price has been paid. Thank you. Grant me many years.