Us baby boomers (we’re in our 70s now) remember that corporal punishment was a parental option for us when we did something bad or wrong. We we’re spanked, in some cases “beaten severely” as Jesus says of the wicked servants in the Gospel. Because of this history and our culture where we would imagine that no child is ever punished with a spanking or any physical punishment, we find these verses in the Gospel to be shocking and unacceptable. Children are without questions most frequently the victims of violence. In our culture of violence, children suffer the most, and the grow us with life-long emotional scars. Does anyone ever think about what the incarcerated children at the border will become as adults? We’ve sown the seeds of the whirlwind in them.

My option this Sunday deletes vss. 47-48. It is unnecessary to the point of the Gospel. But then another option, requiring much skill, would be able to take on the notion of divine punishment for sins — hell! It seems like most people have come to disbelieve in hell or believe in the apokatastasis heresy. Yes, there is an indictment and a judgment and a punishment; we can’t just wish it away. The short version of the Gospel this Sunday sets vss. 40-48 aside.

Based on the arrangement of the readings, it doesn’t feel like this is the Sunday to launch into a hell fire and brimstone homily. That tack doesn’t result in anyone really becoming better stewards nor does it alleviate the fear that Jesus discourages in the opening verse of this Gospel passage. And then, there is the teaching about faith, the great story of Abraham, and the whole thrust of the responsorial psalm. That is the direction to go.

Alan Hartway

Theological Studies at Catholic Theological Union, Chicago IL; Master of Fine Arts, Poetics, at Naropa University, Boulder CO 1996; Master of Arts, Greek Classics, University of Colorado, Boulder CO 2012; Taught at Naropa University from 1999 through 2015; Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies from 2007-2015; Member of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province since 1974; Pastor at Guardian Angel Catholic Church, Mead, CO, ministry from 2007-2020 Currently Retired

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