PopeWatch: The Wrath of God

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The Wrath of God is an unpopular topic in contemporary times, where God tends to be thought of as a Super Genie or a Friend who is constantly giving us thumbs up.  Strangely enough at the close of the farcial Abuse Summit it was Pope Francis who brought up the subject of God’s Wrath.  Sandro Magister gives us the details:

While the world’s attention is riveted by the ordeal of Cardinal George Pell (in the photo), one must not leave by the wayside a surprising passage from the speech with which Francis concluded the summit of February 21-24 on sexual abuse against minors. It is where he says that “in people’s justified anger, the Church sees the reflection of the wrath of God.”

It is rare, extremely rare for the “wrath of God” to be evoked in the words of the current pope, which are rather an unending downpour of divine mercy.

And instead this time he has ventured out onto this terrain that is arduous not only for him, but for the humanity of every time. Because already for the philosophical thought of Jesus’ time, for Seneca and Cicero, the “wrath of God” was something unthinkable and unutterable. And today as well, it is almost universally a taboo concept.

There wrote in this regard, in his 1953 “Essay on the mystery of history,” the brilliant Jesuit theologian Jean Daniélou, whom Paul VI made a cardinal:

“Few other expressions grate more on bashful modern ears. The Alexandrian Jews were already blushing over it in front of the Greek philosophers, and were striving to attenuate its significance. Today it appears unbearable to a Simone Weil, who, as Marcion once did, contrasted the New Testament God of love with the angry God of the Old. And yet love is also found in the Old Testament, and anger is found in the New. One must therefore accept things as they are: anger is one of the attitudes of the biblical God. And we will say more: this apparently anthropomorphic expression is perhaps the one that contains at its core the densest load of mystery and that helps us to penetrate most deeply into the divine transcendence.”

It is a search, that of the true meaning of the “wrath of God,” that occupied the Fathers of the Church right from the first centuries and that it is important to review today, seeing how the expression continues to give scandal. This is what has been carried out by Leonardo Lugaresi, a specialist on the Fathers of the Church and a professor at the University of Bologna, in an essay in the multi-author volume “Crisis and renewal between the classical world and ancient Christianity,” edited by Angela Maria Mazzanti and published in 2015 by Bononia University Press.


Lugaresi takes his cue from “that initial judgment of God on the world which accompanies the work of creation itself. The God of the Bible, in fact, “does not limit himself to creating the universe, but as he creates he judges that which he is creating and explicitly approves of it, recognizing its goodness and beauty, as the text of Genesis repeats no fewer than eight times.”

But then the creation is invaded by sin, and then the judgment, the “krisis” of God, becomes “krisis” of salvation with the sending of the Son, but at the same time “krisis” of wrath and condemnation for those who reject him.

“If we believe in a God who died for us, why on earth should we be afraid of a God who suffers?” argues Tertullian. And wrath, not separated from love, is one of these divine passions, of which Origen writes in this passage of his “Homilies on Ezekiel”:

“He descended to earth moved by pity for the human race, he suffered our pains even before enduring the cross and condescending to take on our flesh; if in fact he had not endured he would not have entered into relationship with the human condition. First he endured, then he descended and was seen. What is this passion that he suffered for us? It is the passion of love. Even the very Father and God of the universe, forbearing and very merciful and compassionate, does not he too perhaps suffer in some way? Do you not know that when he governs human matters, he shares human passion? […] The Father himself is not imperturbable. If he is besought, he feels mercy and compassion, he suffers from love and adopts those sentiments which, given the greatness of his nature, he could not have; for our sake he bears human passions.”

But in the “Contra Celsum” Origen says more. God’s care for the world corrupted by sin is indeed a “krisis,” a judgment that separates the good from the evil and expels the latter with wrath. However “wrath is not a sentiment of God, but each man procures it by means of the sins that he commits.” In other words, Lugaresi explains, “anger is not a component of the divine being, it does not pertain to God in himself, but it is a modality of the relationship between God and man. It is the response of the love of God wounded by man’s rebellion.”

It is again Origen, in the twentieth of his “Homilies on Jeremiah,” who clarifies the unique specificity of God’s wrath, similar to but also different from the “logos,” that “word” which is God himself:

“Just as the word of God instructs, so also his wrath instructs, […] and it is necessary that God should make use of that which is called wrath just as he makes use of the word. And his word is not like everyone else’s word. No one else’s word, in fact, is alive; no one else’s word is God; no one else’s word was in the beginning with God […] So too the wrath of God does not resemble the wrath of anyone else who is in anger, and just as the word of God has something different with respect to the word of anyone else, […] so also that which is called his anger has something different and foreign with respect to every kind of anger of someone who becomes wrathful.”

It comes as no surprise that this “wrath of God” should be unacceptable to the erudite pagans and the philosophers of the first centuries, as also to the heretical Christianity of Marcion and his followers down to our day, which contrasts the wrathful God of the Old Testament with the wholly and solely good God of Jesus.

Go here to read the rest.  God made us in His own image in that we, like He, can choose between good and evil.  All of Scripture indicates that when we choose evil we anger God.  We have forgotten this basic Truth at our peril.


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  1. I have to wonder if God manifested his wrath with us would many think that the ensuring catastrophe was specifically God’s doing. It takes faith to believe in the wrath of God. Others will call it legalistically, an Act of God.

    Perhaps the worst part of Vatican II—there are so many–was the lost of a sense of God’s anger for sin which was done away with by an act of spiritual prestidigitation. According to those who adopted Hans Urs von Balthasar heretical interpretation that nearly everyone was going to heaven. So sin–where is thy sting. And now we have the great God of Mercy all love and no whip.

    I wish we would have a little divine intervention, a small example of wrath, whereby God shows us who is boss. And it should begin right there in Central City—the Vatican. Maybe that would help them and us to become believers again and focus on spiritual holiness rather than material wholeness.

  2. The ‘wrath of God’ is it, Holy Father? I hope so and I hope there is a lot more to come. Your indifference to the poison preached by Fr James Martin and many other Jesuits are voices of calculated confusion. If you will not end it, the Lord in Heaven will. Bet on it.

  3. I think what we see happening in our Church, nation and world IS a glimpse of God’s wrath. We have strayed so far from God that he is allowing us to sample to a degree what the world is like without Him. I am not saying God has abandoned us, but we have refused His grace for so long that what we are now tasting is the bitter fruit of what is to come.

    There are many in our society that celebrate the perversions that have invaded our lives. They love the fact that our nation is moving to a more leftist, anti-religious and anti-Christ society where secularism and relativism reign. For their world has no absolute truths, allowing chaos to dominate.

    Those of us that are left suffer the most in that we see the mocking of God and everything thing that is good in this world for being created by God. I would say most assuredly that those of us who believe, have faith and worship God hate what this nation and world has turned into. God hears all prayers. He hears the cry of his suffering servants. Patience and perseverance is key here.

    John 12:25
    “Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
    Pray for our Church and nation.

  4. The wrath of God may yet be manifested in the wrath of reasonable and decent men who have had enough – just read Donald’s other post, “Tempt Not a Desperate Man,” for more. We should fear that, but because we don’t, we may very well reap the whirlwind which we have sown.


  5. Much has been made about the prophetic role in the Church, but not as much as to prophetic responsibility. Ezekiel 3:17-21 speaks to this prophetic responsibility:
    17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 18 If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19 But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you will have saved your life. 20 Again, if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; and you will have saved your life.”
    All of the recent calls for silence are contrary to the call of prophetic responsibility found in Ezekiel.
    A similar warning is found in Matthew 18:6:
    6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
    The modern scandal is one of too much uncorrected bad example.

  6. I agree with you 100% Gregb, but in today’s world, commenting on one’s behavior as bad will make you a hateful person. THAT I believe is the reason no one really speaks out anymore. Who wants to be seen as an hateful person?

  7. It’s not over yet. This is the same God who responded positively to this question: “But what if there are only ten good men?

  8. “It is a modality of the relationship between God and man. It is the response of the love of God wounded by man’s rebellion.”

    This notion is common in the Fathers. According to St Maximus the Confessor:

    For those who love the Lord, His Presence will be infinite joy, paradise and eternal life. For those who hate the Lord, the same Presence will be infinite torture, hell and eternal death. The reality for both the saved and the damned will be exactly the same when Christ “comes in glory, and all angels with Him,” so that “God may be all in all.” (I Corinthians 15-28) Those who have God as their “all” within this life will finally have divine fulfilment and life. For those whose “all” is themselves and this world, the “all” of God will be their torture, their punishment and their death. And theirs will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 8:21, et al.)

    St Isaac of Syria says:

    According to the saints, the “fire” that will consume sinners at the coming of the Kingdom of God is the same “fire” that will shine with splendour in the saints. It is the “fire” of God’s love; the “fire” of God Himself who is Love. “For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29) who “dwells in unapproachable light.” (I Timothy 6:16) For those who love God and who love all creation in Him, the “consuming fire” of God will be radiant bliss and unspeakable delight. For those who do not love God, and who do not love at all, this same consuming fire” will be the cause of their “weeping” and their “gnashing of teeth.”

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