Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Shall I Make a Return to the Lord?

By Colleen O’Sullivan

It is the Passover of the Lord.  For on this same night I will go through Egypt, striking down every first born of the land, both man and beast…   But the blood will mark the houses where you are.  Seeing the blood, I will pass over you; thus, when I strike the land of Egypt, no destructive blow will come upon you.  “This day shall be a memorial feast for you, which all your generations shall celebrate with pilgrimage to the Lord, as a perpetual institution.”  (Exodus 12:11c-12a, 13-14)

How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?  (Psalm 116:12)

I saw to you, something greater than the temple is here.  If you knew what this meant, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men.  For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”  (Matthew 12:6-8)

We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy.  It is a wellspring of joy, serenity, and peace.  Our salvation depends on it.  Mercy:  the word reveals the very mystery of the Most Holy Trinity.  Mercy:  the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.  Mercy:  the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life.  Mercy:  the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness.
(#2, Misericordiae Vultus, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy)

The psalmist asks a question that each of us ought to frequently ask ourselves:  How can I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?

Our first reading suggests that remembering is one way.  We have a description of the final plague to be visited upon the Egyptians in an effort to convince Pharaoh to let the Hebrew people go free.  Death will sweep across the land of Egypt, taking the first born, both human and animal, in every household.  The blood on the doorposts will be a sign to spare that Hebrew family.   And, in the middle of all that, we also have instructions on how to celebrate Passover properly.

Someone thought it would be important for future generations to have a rite for remembering what God did to free his people from slavery in Egypt as well as an opportunity to recall what God does in all of our lives to free us from what enslaves us.  Kind of like Christmas, where we celebrate Jesus’ birth into our world and, at the same time, celebrate all the ways in which he enters into our lives today.  So the first step in making a return to the Lord is to remember with gratitude the grace and mercy God has showered upon us.

In today’s Gospel reading, the disciples are hungry and eat grain from a field as they are walking along with Jesus.  Of course, it happens to be the Sabbath, and the Pharisees choose to make an issue of it.  Jesus tells them it’s obvious they’ve never understood the words in Hosea 6:6, I desire mercy not sacrifice.  They have been the recipients of God’s mercy toward God’s people for thousands of years, yet they lay heavy burdens on others and prove unwilling to extend God’s mercy towards them.  So the second way we can make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for us is to extend God’s grace and mercy to our brothers and sisters.

Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy to begin December 8, 2015 and come to a close on November 30, 2016.  In his official announcement, he says, “Mercy will always be greater than any sin, and no one can place limits on the love of God who is ever ready to forgive.”

When you pray today, take a few minutes to recall how God has been merciful to you.  Over the next few days, consciously attempt to extend that same mercy to those with whom you come in contact, whether they be family, friend, co-worker, neighbor, or a stranger in need. 

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