Mercy, Confession, Forgiveness.

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Mercy, confession, forgiveness. They are present in all of the readings of this Sunday. All of the readings remind us of Gods infinite Mercy towards His children. In the first, the Lord has delivered the Hebrews from slavery. As Moses converses with God atop the mountain those people regress to their old ways, they build a golden calf for worship. Old habits die hard. The Lord warns Moses of the transgression, and Moses pleads on that flocks behalf. God is a Merciful God and forgives their transgression. Ex 32:7-11, 13-14 Those sinners are able to move past that sin and continue their journey towards the grace of God. Moses acknowledged what they had done was wrong, he did not try to justify a sin. Mercy, confession, and forgiveness. God is a merciful God that allows people to move from sin towards grace.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

Paul in his epistle acknowledges his sin. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. He was present at the stoning of Saint Stephen. In his letter Paul confesses his arrogance, he also confesses the faith he had discovered in Jesus Christ. It is in that faith that he preaches Christs gospel to others that once were unbelievers. Paul does not remain stuck in unbelief, and he does not remain condemned for his unbelief. He does not remain condemned because of his condemnation of Christians. He is able to continue his journey, he can move from darkness to light. Through the mercy of Jesus Christ he is forgiven. Dark to light, and sin to grace. 1 Tm 1:12-17

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

This is what Jesus in the Gospel argues with the Pharisees. A God of infinite mercy who offers forgiveness is the God that Jesus preaches, it is not necessarily the one that the Pharisees recognize. The Pharisees see Jesus associating with the sinners, and to them these sinners are the condemned. To those Pharisees the sinners have offended God, and because of that were condemned. Often irrevocably and that is a curse. To them Mercy and forgiveness are not apparent, and they fear the same vengeful curse. (The thing is a merciful and forgiving God is not a radical departure from their scriptures. Jeremiah, whom I have been reading, speaks of forgiveness. Gods mercy and forgiveness is etched throughout the Old Testament) It was the curse of the blind, and the crippled, and the leper. Vengeance versus mercy. Condemnation versus forgiveness. A God of wrath, and anger versus love and forgiveness. Jesus teaches of a God that goes after those that are lost and wounded, and a God that reaches out at all costs. That is a God of infinite mercy and forgiveness. God uncorrupted. Lk 15:1-32

O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.

The parable of the prodigal son also tells of two sons. The one that is disobedient and sinful, and the other that is sternly obedient. The sinner confesses his sins, and is embraced by the father. The other, he is arrogant and jealous of the sinner. Jealousy and arrogance are sins, they also are sins that are neither recognized nor confessed by that so called good and obedient son. Parables have many interpretations. One for this of the prodigal sons is that Jesus likened the righteous obedient son to the Pharisees. The Pharisees and Sadducees and Temple Priests and Scribes were the people’s conduit back towards God. The problem though was that they often functioned more as a roadblock to God, putting one barrier after another between God and man. Jesus wanted them to notice this, and to notice their own behavior in that righteous and arrogant son. He did not wish them to become like the sinner, but like the father that reaches out in an effort to bring that wayward soul back to the kingdom.

Twenty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 132

Death and Life at a Gate

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Elijah, the famous and fiery Old Testament prophet that challenged the worship of Baal. According to the story 1 Kgs 17:17-24
Elijah enters a widow’s house and at the precise time of his entry, her son falls ill and dies. The woman questions Elijah’s reason for visiting, and not in a positive way. No surprise there! She wonders why Elijah came, and suspects he is the reason for her misfortune. Cut to the chase. Elijah prays to the God of Israel, and the boy regains his life. Through that action, the woman recognizes the prophet as a man of God.

In the city of Nain, Jesus is in a similar experience. Through His action of raising another widower’s only son from the dead, Jesus is recognized by the people as a great prophet. In that gospel story 1 Kgs 17:17-24
the details deserve some mention. For one the event takes place at a gate. The crowd of mourners approach from one side of the gate, Jesus and His disciples approach from the other. Is it possible to ignore the transition, the exit of the old and the entry of the new? Death exits and life enters. At the gate both collide. The woman did not ask for Jesus’s help, and she likely did not know who He was. She never ventured beyond the gate, Jesus entered her life. His reason for raising her son was pity, and mercy. What again is the reason of the Nativity? Why did God become man, was it not for the same reason? Why did Christ die on the cross, was it not so that we might have life? The gospel story not only mirrors the story of Elijah, it reminisces on Christ’s own death and resurrection.

Another small point worthy of notice is how Jesus commands the boy to rise. There is no request from the mother, He simply tells her to stop weeping. He then touches the coffin and commands the boy to rise. There is no lengthy dialogue, he brings the widowers son to life “out of pity.” That is His mission, plain and simple. The details give reason for the woman’s mourning, and there were many. Jesus’s reason though was summed up in one word, pity. Why was that woman weeping, certainly that is common at funerals, but there are a few details that added to her tears. She was burying her son, painful and agonizing without a doubt. This though was her only son, and she was a widower. Her tears are magnified, if one can believe that possible. Without husband and son her life takes a dramatic change. Gone is income and in that society she becomes an outcast. Her tears, for her son and for her future. There are tears for the loss of a loved one, there is also anguish from the constraints of a society. She lived within the culture of an old society, Jesus enters through a gate and a new testament begins. As Jesus enters that gate, the son is brought to life and those accompanying him are enlivened also. Jesus entered their life, and through his life giving actions they recognize “a great prophet.”

Enough with Jesus and Elijah, let’s turn to the women and the funeral crowd. How does the woman recognize Elijah as a prophet? How does the funeral party recognize Jesus as the same? The answer is plain as day, they both brought the dead to life. They are recognized through the result of their actions. The question then? How are Christians recognized today?

Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 90

Jesus Sacred Heart Ramble.

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Sacred heart of Jesus, I will type fast. Stand straight and arms outstretched. Look for that intersection where horizontal crosses the vertical, the arms and the torso. It’s where the heart resides. The intersection between the vertical beam of the cross, and the horizontal. “X” marks the spot, there rests a heart. The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The standing, the vertical points to God, His mission to restore the relationship between God and man. Love. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. The horizontal, peace among man. “Love one another as I have loved you.” Between those is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. God’s heart, Gods love. God becomes man. Becomes man out of love. L-O-V-E. The agony of the garden, and the agony of the cross, all in His love. It’s His message and His Heart. The rescue of the lost sheep, giving sight to the blind, the healing of the sick and the binding of wounds. Love. God’s mercy, the forgiveness of sins. Love, Gods love. The love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart of Jesus, a passionate heart and a merciful one. The Passion of Christ out of love for us, His mercy for the same. Pope Francis tells his priests “Smell the sheep.” That’s precisely what the Christ did when He became man. In persona Christi, he says. That God reached into the thickets, through the thorns to grab that sheep. The lost sheep. The devotion of the shepherd. Smell the sheep, that’s what He did. His Heart for ours, the price of redemption. The paschal lamb, the sacrifice of love. The Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart, taught us to love God, as God loves man.

Ez 34:11-16

Rom 5:5b-11

Lk 15:3-7

Merci beaucoup, on a Sunday.

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Merci beaucoup, as the French would say. Divine mercy Sunday, doubting Thomas Sunday; a Sunday with two names.

Let’s start with Thomas’s doubts, his question’s, his refusal to believe. “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Was that for his lack of faith in Christ, or was it because of the immense amount of faith he had placed in the Lord? Per opinion I suspect it was the latter. I can also venture a guess that he refused to diminish Christ’s legacy, so strong was his hope in Christ’s promise. He could not rely on hearsay. His doubt was a demand for truth , it also could be considered a defense. A legal court argument, so it seems to me. A refusal to face the realities of the crucifixion. Is that possible, might it be human? Thomas is a real person, with human emotions. Thomas is not that different from any man today. An emotional reaction? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed Some also say that Thomas’s doubt was precisely for our benefit. Some say Jesus revealed Himself while Thomas was absent so that he would express a human response and demand a proof of the resurrected Christ. Blessed are those that do not see yet believe, Thomas’s argument helps us do exactly that.

Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”

Think a little deeper about the doubt of Thomas, think of it in terms of Christ’s mercy. Divine mercy. If Thomas has doubt , look at it from another point of view. Look at his doubt from the viewpoint of someone who was scourged, and mocked, and tortured for someone like Thomas. Look at Thomas from the viewpoint of a person who was shown no mercy. Did mankind show Christ mercy? Did mankind respond to Christ with mercy, did Christ respond with the same brutality he received? Christ’s response to Thomas is in virtuous understanding, He wishes that Thomas believes. Jesus Christ gives Thomas the benefit of the doubt. Forgiveness? Jesus sees Thomas as good. Think to the story of creation please. He extends His wounds as a merciful response to Thomas’s doubt. That mercy is extended after three days in the grave. That mercy is extended after descending into the depths of hell. One can ask how much more God must do beyond hanging on a tree to prove His love and mercy for man? The answer is He extends his wounds mercifully so that we might believe . That is mercy, endless mercy, divine mercy. God extends his mercy even before receiving a merci beaucoup, a thank you. Gods mercy is not dependent on our actions, it is freely extended despite our doubt, shortcomings and human frailties. It is endless and selfless, it is eternal. That is divine mercy. Merci