Why bother to live for the delayed joys of the Kingdom of God rather than the instant gratification of this world? This question is well answered in today’s Office of Readings taken from Wisdom 3:1-19. It is heard often at funerals but it is worth a fresh, reflective listening.
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.
But the godless will be duly punished for their reasoning,
for neglecting the virtuous man and deserting the Lord.
Yes, wretched are they who scorn wisdom and discipline:
their hope is void,
their toil unavailing,
their achievements unprofitable…
Even if they live long, they will count for nothing,
their old age will go unhonoured at the last;
while if they die early, they have neither hope
nor comfort on the day of doom.
Yes, harsh is the fate of a race of evil-doers.