Friday, February 19, 2016

Mercy on the Just and the Unjust

Today you are making this agreement with the LORD: he is to be your God and you are to walk in his ways and observe his statutes, commandments and decrees, and to hearken to his voice. And today the LORD is making this agreement with you: you are to be a people peculiarly his own, as he promised you; and provided you keep all his commandments, he will then raise you high in praise and renown and glory above all other nations he has made, and you will be a people sacred to the LORD, your God, as he promised.”  Deuteronomy 26:17-19

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  Matthew 5:44-45

How special does this make you feel?  To be chosen -- you -- from all the peoples on the face of the earth.  Forever.  By the Lord who will be ever present in your midst. No matter what. 

He asks of us in return so little.  He wants to go for a walk with us every now and again.  He would like us to listen to the messages passed down from angels and prophets, priests and kings, the people who are lepers and blind. He would like us to live a life, not of perfection but of perfect mercy.

Whether we read Deuteronomy or Ezekiel, Hosea or Jeremiah.  Samuel or Exodus.  Leviticus or Matthew, the covenant never changes. 

Crucifixion (Corpus Hypercubus)
is a 1954 oil-on-canvas painting
by Salvador DalĂ­ 
He promises to raise us up.  Raised up…just not like we raised him up…on the cross. Once we made him carry it up the hill.  Once we nailed him to it.   Once he died on it.

He promises no matter what to raise us up high in praise and renown and glory above all others. 

Pope Francis chose the Lucan parallel for this Jubilee Year.  He sensed that if the church asked us for a Year of Perfection, that people might fall down on the standard. A Jubilee Year of Perfection from imperfect, human people and an imperfect, human church.  Ah.  But mercy.  Mercy, mercy me.  We can do mercy. 

We can easily do mercy for our friends and family.  But today, we are asked to step it up a giant step. We are asked to do mercy for our enemies.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the people who cut you off on the Beltway do the same?  And if you greet your only those you consider your sisters and brothers only, what is unusual about that? But the challenge is welcoming the stranger who comes to our strange land from Mexico or Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador or Palestine or the Gaza Strip. 

If we are set apart from the stars in the sky thanks to this covenant, then we are challenged to a higher standard…a standard that is harder to attain that just waking up and putting your feet on the floor.  Anyone can do that.  To live in the spirit and actuality of mercy.  Mercy is the challenge of Christianity.  Mercy is the contradiction our faith asks us to make with our political-economic-social lives.  

Now is as good time to start as any other time that is lent to us. 

No comments: