Many of us were saddened at the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week. Republicans and Democrats are going round and round with the usual political hullabaloo over Scalia's replacement and whether the nomination should be postponed until after the November elections.
But for people of faith, the question is what does this mean? Why now, God? In a time when the traditional Catholic voice is so muted, when natural law is so poorly understood, when political leadership is devoid of men devoted to the Faith - in other words, when men like Justice Scalia were so sorely needed - why, God? Why take him so suddenly, now, only a few months before the end of Barack Obama's administration? Could you not have found a better time or a better person to take, O' Lord? Why heap misery upon misery on us?
In short, I believe we are facing what I call a Megiddo Moment. Many of you may be familiar with the name Megiddo as the Hebrew source of the word Armageddon. But let us go back to the Old Testament roots of the word.
In the Old Testament, Megiddo was the site of a battle between the Israelites under King Josiah and the Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho II in 609 BC.
King Josiah was one of Judah's few righteous kings. The book of 2 Kings tells us that Josiah was most devoted to God's law of any of Judah's kings. He had purified the Temple of all the abominations introduced by the pagans, tore down the pagan altars around Judah, had the Book of Deuteronomy read to the people (which he and the priests found in the Temple after years of neglect), celebrated the Feasts of the Lord according to the Law, and in general ruled in righteousness according to God's commandments.
But how did God reward the righteousness of this king?
"In his days Pharao Necho king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went to meet him: and was slain at Megiddo, when he had seen him" (2 Ki. 23:29).
Josiah was only 39 years old when he died. He conceivably had decades ahead of him - decades more to do good and lead Judah in righteousness. Why did God cut Him off in the prime of life, despite his goodness? Our answer is found a few verses prior:
"There was no king before [Josiah] like unto him, that returned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with ail his strength, according to all the law of Moses: neither after him did there arise any like him.
But yet the Lord turned not away from the wrath of his great indignation, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah: because of the provocations, wherewith Manasseh had provoked him.
And the Lord said: I will remove Judah also from before my face, as I have removed Israel: and I will cast off this city Jerusalem, which I chose, and the house, of which I said: My name shall be there" (2 Ki. 23:25-27).
Josiah was cut off because God was determined to punish Judah for the sins of Manasseh. Manasseh was the grandfather of Josiah. Manasseh was the wickedest of all the kings of Judah. He had sacrificed children to Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem (2 Ch. 33:6) and did more evil than any other Israelite king before or since.
When Manasseh committed these sins, he essentially pushed Judah over the edge - brought his kingdom past the point of no return. God was determined to punish Judah; not even the righteous King Josiah was enough to change anything. And because God had determined to punish, He cut the righteous king off at the prime of his life. Twenty-two years later Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the political power of the Davidic dynasty was extinguished.
Because I am a pessimist when it comes to these things, I think the death of Scalia was just such a Megiddo moment. Our nation and our people have, individually and collectively, so provoked God to wrath by our sins that we have reached a tipping point. There is only judgment now. And if a righteous branch sprouts up - someone like Scalia - God will cut him off at a very inconvenient time in order to facilitate the judgment that He has ordained.
I may be wrong...I tend towards apocalypticism and pessimism in such questions, but I suspect this is the case.