Seeking Mercy

If in last week’s readings we focused on the forgiveness of God, in this week’s readings we continue to see how the spaciousness of God’s love is made possible by Jesus, the Son of God, who is also the forgiving victim. As we saw in last week’s reading from Galatians 2, there is an “I” formed by the world and another “I” that is reborn in Christ. By being baptized into the faithfulness of Jesus, Galatians 3 shows us that unity is not only possible but made present in the Body of Christ as the diversity and divisions that mark the world no longer determine human dignity and community. By our baptism, we are given a new identity in Christ as we are reborn in the life of grace.

The prophet Zechariah points us to the fountain of grace, poured out from the suffering servant in whom we will find purity, unity, and restoration (remember Zechariah speaks to a people returning from exile). In Luke 9, as the people seek to make sense of just who Jesus is, Jesus asks his disciples: Who do you say that I am? Their answers were all over the map and even when Peter seemingly got it right – the Messiah – Jesus told them not to tell anyone.

What they could not imagine – nor scarcely can we – is that Jesus is the suffering servant, the forgiving victim, the loving lamb who enters into the sin and suffering of a sin-sick world not to condemn the world but to save it! And that salvation would come not by taking sides in the zero sum game of religious and political leaders but by unequivocally siding with the poor, the marginalized, the wretched of the earth. This love put him on the cross. This same love raised him from the dead.

In the face of such a love, we are called to live in the light of the lamb and in the power of Holy Spirit to bear witness to this love and forgiveness to others. However, we (like those religious leaders in the Old and New Testaments) are constantly tempted to return to our own worldly categories of judgment. As the Body of Christ we are gathered and sent by our baptism to invite others into the love of God in Christ Jesus, taking up our crosses – that is the very real consequences of staying true to Jesus in a world often hostile to the ways God’s love actually takes flesh.

What are the fringes that we create? What are the pains to which we contribute? To whom are we indifferent? How might we give sanctuary to those at the margins, time and space for holiness and safety? How do we take up our crosses and love the poor and marginalized, immigrants, those in LBGT communities, children, victims of violence, or those suffering with mental illness?

Pope Francis has laid out this call for the Year of Mercy:

“In this Holy [#YearOfMercy], we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!” — Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 15

May God the Father unite us with the Son that we may know the power of the Holy Spirit and witness to the mercy, forgiveness, and love of God in Jesus Christ.

 

– Greg Walgenbach, Director of Life, Justice & Peace, Diocese of Orange