First Reading: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19

The Power of God

How have you experienced the exercise of political power? The power of nature? Describe your experience of power.

13 For neither is there any god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned;

16 For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. 17 For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity. 18 But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. 19 And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; And you gave your sons good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

New American Bible

What is true power? Beneath the subject of divine providence lie this question. After all, rulers of the world use power ruthlessly. Some make blatant displays to intimidate. Others hide their actions with social grace and hollow words. Some use power with the iron fist; others put the iron fist in a velvet glove. No matter. The results seem to be the same.

But, how does God display his power? Or, for the impatient, why doesn't he display his power? The author of Wisdom faced these questions. Written between 150 B.C. to 100 A.D. in Alexandria, Egypt, the author reflected on the precarious situation of his fellow Jews in the city. On the one hand, the author and his audience spoke Greek as a first language and were greatly influenced by the wider Greek culture. On the other hand, he most likely lived in the large Jewish quarter within the city. Since the quarter was autonomous, Alexandrian Jews retained a distinctive identity. So, the author and his co-religionists were like the general population, but were very different. This led to misunderstanding and even persecution from the outside, and an identity crisis on the inside. Why does God allow the good (Jews in the city) to suffer at the hands of the wicked (outsiders)? Why doesn't he use his power to vindicate (that is, assert the place of) his people?

These few passages from Wisdom tried to answer these questions. The God of the Jews is Lord; his people need no other deity. Why? Because his power is so overwhelming, he can be magnanimous. He rules with patience and clemency, to allow repentance and forgiveness. Yet, he rebukes those who confuse his kindness with weakness.

When we feel persecuted, we might be tempted to ask: why doesn't God act decisively? Many people have tripped on that inquiry. They answer with impatience and despair instead of trust. Indeed the question of God's power is the measure of faith. How we answer the question of power reflects the depth of our trust in the Almighty.

When have you cried out to God for relief? How has he answered your call? Do you still wait? Or, have you given up? Explain.