Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings could confuse us with their threads of legalistic logic. We see several examples of “if-then” admonitions that can make us picture God as an accountant measuring every choice we make.
If the wicked man turns, … then he shall surely live If the virtuous man turns, … then none of his good deeds shall be remembered. If you, O Lord, mark iniquities … then who can stand. If you go to the altar unreconciled … then leave and be reconciled
Sometimes, we can get obsessive about the “if-then” aspects of religion. And IF we do, THEN we probably miss the whole point. Because folded in today’s “if-then” seesaws is the truth of these passages: that the Lord does NOT sit miserly in Heaven to mark our iniquities.
God measures the righteousness of love.
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.
Jeremiah 9: 23-24
Today’s Responsorial Psalm offers us a beautiful prayer for today as we pray in the embrace of God’s Lavish Mercy:
I trust in the LORD; my soul trusts in his word. My soul waits for the LORD more than sentinels wait for the dawn. Let Israel wait for the LORD. For with the LORD is kindness and with him is plenteous redemption; And he will redeem Israel from all their iniquities.
Psalm 130: 5-7
Let’s wait for the Lord today to see how God’s Grace invites us to the righteousness of Love.
Poetry: Measurement by Ella Hines Stratton
Great tasks are but seldom given out, Great deeds are but for the few, Yet the little acts, not talked about, May need a faith as true.
Some things are better for being small, For a breath who wants a cyclone? And the flower which would die in a water-fall Grows bright with a drop alone.
The small is not always a little thing— The stroke of a pen may move A crown from off the brow of a king, A government from its groove.
At times our measurement cannot be right, For, when tried by the Master’s test, So little a gift as a widow’s mite Out-balances all the rest.
And whether a thing be great or small As none of us may plan, It is safe to do, what we do at all, The very best that we can.
Music: Everlasting Love – Mark Hendrickson & Family (Lyrics below)
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we are invited to be like God:
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole assembly of the children of Israel and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.
Our first reading goes on to tell us how to be a decent person.
Don’t steal, lie, or cheat Pay just wages Respect and help those physically burdened Be impartial and just Defend life Don’t slander, hate, take revenge, or hold a grudge
Leviticus, after a long list of practical examples, sums it up:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.
Our Gospel tells us what happens when we make the choice to take the Old Testament advice — or not.
We are all familiar with the parable of the sheep and the goats. And we all hope our scorecard gets us into the right herd “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him …”
In this parable, Jesus puts the advice of Leviticus into practical form for his followers. But he adds one dynamic element that not only invites but impels our wholehearted response:
Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.
Leviticus invites us to become holy as God is holy. But Jesus reveals the secret that this Holy God lives in the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned and sick. By embracing these most beloved of God, we find the path to holiness.
Poetry: When Did I See You – Renee Yann, RSM
When Did I See You … (Woman Who Is Homeless)
In the bitter rain of February I sat inside a sunlit room, and offered You warm prayer.
Then, she passed outside my window dressed too lightly for the wind, steadied on a cane, though she was young.
She seemed searching for a comfort, unavailable and undefined. The wound of that impossibility
fell over her the way it falls on every tender thing that cries but is not gathered to a caring breast.
Suddenly she was a single anguished seed of You, fallen into all created things.
Gathering my fallen prayer, I wear the thought of her like cracked earth wears fresh rain.
I’ve misconstrued You, Holy One, to whom I spread my heart
as if it were a yearning field… Holy One, already ripe within her barest, leanest yearning.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from Romans tells us:
The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.
How is the Word of God near us, with us?
Certainly, our sincere study and prayer with scripture is one way. Sitting quietly with scriptural passages, letting them speak to us, and inviting them to inform our lives is a life-giving discipline.
Sometimes, we might choose just one word or phrase from a beloved reading, turning it over and over, gently in our prayer. How has this precious word informed our lives, inspired us, called us, comforted us? How is it speaking to us in this moment?
As we move more deeply into the “words” of scripture, we move closer to theWord – the Incarnate God. John writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
Today in our prayer, we might recommit ourselves to a deepening love of scripture, of the Word given to us there.
In his book, “The Bible Makes Sense”, Walter Bruggemann says this:
The Bible is not an “object” for us to study but a partner with whom we may dialogue. It is usual in our modern world to regard any “thing” as an object that will yield its secrets to us if we are diligent and discerning. And certainly this is true of a book that is finished, printed, bound, and that we can buy, sell, shelve, and carry in a briefcase or place on a coffee table…[But] reading the Bible requires that we abandon the subject-object way of perceiving things… [If we do,] the text will continue to contain surprises for us, and conversely we discover that not only do we interpret the text but we in turn are interpreted by the text… We may analyze, but we must also listen and expect to be addressed.
Poetry: God – by Khalil Gibran
In the ancient days, when the first quiver of speech came to my lips, I ascended the holy mountain and spoke unto God, saying, 'Master, I am thy slave. Thy hidden will is my law and I shall obey thee for ever more.'
But God made no answer, and like a mighty tempest passed away.
And after a thousand years I ascended the holy mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, 'Creator, I am thy creation. Out of clay hast thou fashioned me and to thee I owe mine all.'
And God made no answer, but like a thousand swift wings passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the holy mountain and spoke unto God again, saying, 'Father, I am thy son. In pity and love thou hast given me birth, and through love and worship I shall inherit thy kingdom.'
And God made no answer, and like the mist that veils the distant hills he passed away.
And after a thousand years I climbed the sacred mountain and again spoke unto God, saying, 'My God, my aim and my fulfilment; I am thy yesterday and thou art my tomorrow. I am thy root in the earth and thou art my flower in the sky, and together we grow before the face of the sun.'
Then God leaned over me, and in my ears whispered words of sweetness, and even as the sea that enfoldeth a brook that runneth down to her, he enfolded me.
And when I descended to the valleys and the plains, God was there also.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our reading from 1 Samuel tells the intriguing tale of David’s magnanimity toward Saul. Saul is enraged and jealous of David whom Samuel has anointed as king to replace Saul. David is continually in Saul’s crosshairs.
But one night, David stealthily enters Saul’s camp. Even though he has a chance to kill Saul, David spares his life out of respect for his kingship.
While it’s not exactly “love for his enemies”, David does demonstrate a largeness of spirit that foretells today’s Gospel. This gracious spirit demonstrates that David is in right relationship (covenant) with God.
Our Gospel is part of Jesus’s Great Sermon in which he restates and renews the covenant of right relationship. If our spirits are true to God, we will love as God loves. We are to be merciful as God is merciful.
This Law of Love is the essence of life in Christ. It is a profoundly challenging call.
How hard it must have been for David as he stood, spear in hand, over his sleeping enemy – over the one trying to kill him!
How hard it is for us not to be vengeful, retaliatory, and parsimonious when we feel threatened or exploited.
But we are called, in Christ, to the New Covenant of love. By that call, we are endowed with a right spirit.
Today, Jesus asks us to love, forgive, and judge all others as we ourselves would want to be treated. He asks us to live with a divinely magnanimous heart.
Let us pray for the strength to respond.
Prose: from To Love as God Loves by Roberta C. Bondi, professor emerita of church history and spirituality, Candler School of Theology, Emory University.
Love as a disposition does not primarily act on abstract principle. Instead it is a way of seeing habitually and responding to the real, separate, individual needs of each of the people we encounter in our lives every single day.
Music: O Mercy – Stu Garrard, Matt Maher and Audrey Assad
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, two disciples of Jesus are our teachers. James advises us on what to do. Beloved Peter, as so often is the case, shows us what not to do.
James tells us to show no partiality. He makes clear that he is talking about impartiality toward those who are materially poor. It’s a maxim that Jesus gave us time and again in the Gospel.
James reminds us that Jesus is not just impartial toward those who are poor, he actually has a preferential love for them. So Jesus was partial to the poor, right? Hmm!
Yes, I think that’s right. In order to balance our human inclination to the richest, best, strongest, etc., Jesus teaches us to go all out in the other direction.
It’s like this great cartoon that popped up on Facebook a while ago:
Our Gospel picks up the theme.
Because of his great love for the poor and his passion for mercy, Jesus tells his followers that suffering is coming. Peter doesn’t like hearing that. Can you see Peter take Jesus aside and say, “Listen, Jesus, negative talk is going to hurt your campaign. You’re God! You can just zap suffering out of your life!”
Jesus responds to Peter definitively: “Get thee behind me, Satan!”
Wow! That must have stung! But that’s how important it was to Jesus that his followers understood his mission: to preach Mercy to the poor, sick, and broken by sharing and transforming their experience.
Jesus wants us to understand that too.
Prose: from St. Oscar Romero
It is no honor for the Church to be on good terms with the powerful. The honor of the Church consists in this, that the poor feel at home in her, that she fulfils her mission on earth, that she challenges everyone, the rich as well, to repent and work out their salvation, but starting from the world of the poor, for they, they alone are the ones who are blessed.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, we have the beautiful letter from Paul to Timothy, filled with tenderness, encouragement, hope and the sweet suggestion of loving memories.
Paul, an Apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God for the promise of life in Christ Jesus, to Timothy, my dear child: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Tim 1:1
On life’s road, what an indescribable blessing to have even one companion who loves us the way Paul loved Timothy — to care for our whole life, our whole soul, and our whole “forever”.
In his letter, Paul reveals that Timothy has been immensely blessed with such love throughout his life. Timothy’s mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois have already – for many years – tendered Timothy in the faith.
I think gratefully of my own mother today, on the 34th anniversary of her death. How indescribably blessed I have been by her love and faith!
In this heartfelt epistle, Paul notes that he prays for Timothy daily. Perhaps as you read his words you may, like me, think of those who have nurtured and cared for you in a way similar to Paul’s love for Timothy; to Eunice’s and Lois’s love for him.
Do we pray for those who have blessed us and loved us in our lives? Do we tell them so, if they are living? Do we thank and remember them if they have gone home to God?
Paul closes this part of his letter with such a powerful charge to Timothy:
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the laying on of my hands.
In other words, it is not enough just to be grateful for such gifts. We must use them to light and warm a next generation of believers and faith-filled lovers.
For those who have done otherwise, may we forgive them and, as best we can, release them to God’s Mercy. Perhaps they, by the grace of God, have left us with another kind of “gift” — as Mary Oliver has written:
Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.
It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.
Poetry: God’s Grandeur – Gerard Manley Hopkins
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Music: for your remembering prayer: James Last – Coulin
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings place us at watershed moments in the lives of David and Jesus.
All the tribes of Israel came to David in Hebron and said: “Here we are, your bone and your flesh. In days past, when Saul was our king, it was you who led the children of Israel out and brought them back. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd my people Israel and shall be commander of Israel.’” When all the elders of Israel came to David in Hebron, King David made an agreement with them there before the LORD, and they anointed him king of Israel.
2 Samuel 5:1-4
In 2 Samuel 5, David fully assumes the kingship through the approbation of the community. The scene marks the culmination of his rise to power and “the beginning of the rest of his life”.
Through our readings in Samuel until now, we have ascended with David to the pinnacle of his life. We are about to begin weeks of moving down “the other side of the mountain”.
Scholars generally see the David narrative in two primary units, the Rise of David (I Sam. 16:1—II Sam. 5:10) and the Succession Narrative (II Sam. 9:1—20:26; I Kings 1:1—2:46). Chapters 5:11—8:18, fall between two larger units. Whereas the first presents David in his ascendancy, the second presents David in his demise and expresses pathos and ambiguity. Our chapters thus come after the raw vitality of the rise of David and before the terrible pathos of the succession narrative. They show the painful process whereby this beloved chieftain is transformed into a hardened monarch, who now has more power than popular affection.
Walter Brueggemann, First and Second Samuel
In our Gospel, Jesus also comes to a sort of “continental divide”. But rather than community approbation, Jesus encounters the condemnation of the scribes who have come from Jerusalem to assess him.
The scribes who had come from Jerusalem said of Jesus, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “By the prince of demons he drives out demons.”
From this moment in his life, Jesus too launches into his “kingship”, one that looks very different from David’s. The ensuing chapters of Samuel will reveal how David struggles and succumbs to the temptations of power and domination. The Gospels, on the other hand, describe Jesus’s “kingdom” as one of humility, mercy, and love for those who are poor and suffering.
Only through faith can we understand the inverse power of God present in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives. Jesus, the “new David”, is anointed in the Spirit to reveal and incorporate us into the kingdom of God.
Prose: from Immanuel Jakobovits who was the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1967 to 1991.
To those without faith there are no answers. To those with faith, there are no questions.
Music: King David, music by Herbert Howells, sung by Sarah Connolly from a poem by Walter de la Mare
King David – Walter de la Mare
King David was a sorrowful man: No cause for his sorrow had he; And he called for the music of a hundred harps, To ease his melancholy.
They played till they all fell silent: Played-and play sweet did they; But the sorrow that haunted the heart of King David They could not charm away.
He rose; and in his garden Walked by the moon alone, A nightingale hidden in a cypress-tree Jargoned on and on.
King David lifted his sad eyes Into the dark-boughed tree- ''Tell me, thou little bird that singest, Who taught my grief to thee?'
But the bird in no wise heeded And the king in the cool of the moon Hearkened to the nightingale's sorrowfulness, Till all his own was gone.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings burst with lessons for our faith. We might center our prayer on these three dynamic elements:
Power Praise Perseverance
In our first reading, Israel is in the midst of a profound power shift. Until this time, Israel has thrived in “covenantal localism” which released possibility and initiative within the broad community. But now, perhaps stressed by the Philistine threat, the elders lobby for the establishment of a kingship – a centralization of power, wealth, land control, and local self-determination. ( based on Walter Brueggemann: First and Second Samuel: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching)
Samuel isn’t happy with the elders’ suggestion and, apparently, neither is God. Samuel tells the elders so in a passionate speech against regalism. He pronounces that when the king has usurped all their rights, God will not deliver them as they once were delivered from a similar bondage in Egypt:
When this takes place, you will complain against the king whom you have chosen, but on that day the LORD will not answer you.
1 Samuel 8:18
The lesson for us is that the use and organization of power must always be for the sake of communal justice and well-being. Fostering these universal goods is the perpetual struggle of nations and institutions. As part of any community, we are called advocate for a just distribution of power for all people.
Praise Our Responsorial Psalm counsels that in all such human interactions, our focus must be on God and God’s Will for universal wholeness and peace – a peace evidenced in justice, joy, and praise.
Blessed the people who know the joyful shout; in the light of your countenance, O LORD, they walk. At your name they rejoice all the day, and through your justice they are exalted.
Mark’s story of the cure of a paralyzed man demonstrates the power of faithful perseverance. This man’s community – his friends – persist until he fully benefits from God’s desire for his wholeness.
Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to him, “Child, your sins are forgiven.”
Such is our responsibility to pursue our own wholeness and the wholeness of our global community.
Poetry: Ozymandias – Percy Bysshe Shelley
(The poem explores the fate of history and the ravages of time: even the greatest men and the empires they forge are impermanent, their legacies fated to decay into oblivion. (Wikipedia)
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: ‘Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed: And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair! ”Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.’
Music: Aria – composed by Friedrich Gulda, played by Tomoko Inoue
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings present a human cycle with which we all are familiar- the experience of falling and being lifted up again.
Failure then Mercy then Redemption
In our first reading, we hear about Hophni and Phinehas, sons of old Eli. They were not nice guys. They represent everything that happens when politics and power corrupt religion.
Now the sons of Eli were wicked; they had respect neither for the LORD nor for the priests’ duties toward the people.
1 Samuel 2: 13-14
After a first defeat by the Philistines, the elders of Israel sent for the Ark of the Covenant to fortify them in battle. Hophni and Phineas, being the Ark’s tenders, accompanied it from Shiloh. But the presence of the Ark, representing God, didn’t bring victory. Israel lost a second battle.
The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.
1 Samuel 4:11
Wow! You know it’s bad enough when we fail a first time! But after asking God to step in, we still fail??? Uh Oh!
Our Responsorial Psalm is the prayer of those recognizing themselves as utterly defeated, confused, and begging for redemption – the “Uh Oh People”!
Why do you hide your face, forgetting our woe and our oppression? For our souls are bowed down to the dust, our bodies are pressed to the earth. Redeem us, Lord, because of your mercy.
Mark’s Gospel tells the story of one devastated and utterly dependent on God to be restored, — a story of the immediacy of God’s Mercy when we open our hearts to it:
A leper came to him and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”
Listen, I’ve been an “uh oh person” many times in my life. Probably you have too. As we pray with these passages, our own failures and defeats may speak to us. Whether we are in their midst or simply wrapped in their recollection, let’s open our spirits to these extraordinary gifts:
honest recognition of our failures
a request for healing redemption
gratitude for God’s Lavish Mercy
Poetry: The Leper – by Nathaniel Parker Willis
It’s a rather long poem, and may delight only the literary nerds like me. But it paints a wonderful story if you can take time to read it sometime.
“ROOM for the leper! room!” And, as he came, The cry passed on—“Room for the leper! Room!” Sunrise was slanting on the city gates Rosy and beautiful, and from the hills The early risen poor were coming in, 5 Duly and cheerfully to their toil, and up Rose the sharp hammer’s clink and the far hum Of moving wheels and multitudes astir, And all that in a city murmur swells— Unheard but by the watcher’s weary ear, 10 Aching with night’s dull silence, or the sick Hailing the welcome light and sounds that chase The death-like images of the dark away. “Room for the leper!” And aside they stood— Matron, and child, and pitiless manhood—all 15 Who met him on his way—and let him pass. And onward through the open gate he came, A leper, with the ashes on his brow, Sackcloth about his loins, and on his lip A covering, stepping painfully and slow, 20 And with a difficult utterance, like one Whose heart is with an iron nerve put down, Crying, “Unclean! unclean!”
’Twas now the first
Of the Judean autumn, and the leaves, Whose shadows lay so still upon his path, 25 Had put their beauty forth beneath the eye Of Judah’s palmiest noble. He was young, And eminently beautiful, and life Mantled in eloquent fulness on his lip, And sparkled in his glance; and in his mien 30 There was a gracious pride that every eye Followed with benisons—and this was he! With the soft airs of summer there had come A torpor on his frame, which not the speed Of his best barb, nor music, nor the blast 35 Of the bold huntsman’s horn, nor aught that stirs The spirit to its bent, might drive away. The blood beat not as wont within his veins; Dimness crept o’er his eye: a drowsy sloth Fettered his limbs like palsy, and his mien, 40 With all its loftiness, seem’d struck with eld. Even his voice was changed; a languid moan Taking the place of the clear silver key; And brain and sense grew faint, as if the light And very air were steeped in sluggishness. 45 He strove with it awhile, as manhood will, Ever too proud for weakness, till the rein Slacken’d within his grasp, and in its poise The arrowy jeered like an aspen shook. Day after day, he lay, as if in sleep. 50 His skin grew dry and bloodless, and white scales, Circled with livid purple, cover’d him. And then his nails grew black, and fell away From the dull flesh about them, and the hues Deepen’d beneath the hard unmoisten’d scales, 55 And from their edges grew the rank white hair, —And Helon was a leper!
Day was breaking,
When at the altar of the temple stood The holy priest of God. The incense lamp Burn’d with a struggling light, and a low chant 60 Swell’d through the hollow arches of the roof Like an articulate wail, and there, alone, Wasted to ghastly thinness, Helon knelt. The echoes of the melancholy strain Died in the distant aisles, and he rose up, 65 Struggling with weakness, and bow’d down his head Unto the sprinkled ashes, and put off His costly raiment for the leper’s garb: And with the sackcloth round him, and his lip Hid in a loathsome covering, stood still, 70 Waiting to hear his doom:—
Depart! depart, O child Of Israel, from the temple of thy God! For He has smote thee with His chastening rod; And to the desert-wild, 75 From all thou lov’st away, thy feet must flee, That from thy plague His people may be free.
Depart! and come not near The busy mart, the crowded city, more; Nor set thy foot a human threshold o’er; 80 And stay thou not to hear Voices that call thee in the way; and fly From all who in the wilderness pass by.
Wet not thy burning lip In streams that to a human dwelling glide; 85 Nor rest thee where the covert fountains hide; Nor kneel thee down to dip The water where the pilgrim bends to drink, By desert well or river’s grassy brink;
And pass thou not between 90 The weary traveller and the cooling breeze; And lie not down to sleep beneath the trees Where human tracks are seen; Nor milk the goat that browseth on the plain, Nor pluck the standing corn, or yellow grain. 95
And now, depart! and when Thy heart is heavy, and thine eyes are dim, Lift up thy prayer beseechingly to Him Who, from the tribes of men, Selected thee to feel His chastening rod, 100 Depart! O Leper, and forget not God!
And he went forth—alone! not one of all The many whom he loved, nor she whose name Was woven in the fibres of the heart Breaking within him now, to come and speak 105 Comfort unto him. Yea—he went his way, Sick, and heart-broken, and alone—to die! For God had cursed the leper!
It was noon,
And Helon knelt beside a stagnant pool In the lone wilderness, and bathed his brow, 110 Hot with the burning leprosy, and touched The loathsome water to his fever’d lips, Praying that he might be so blest—to die! Footsteps approach’d, and with no strength to flee, He drew the covering closer on his lip, 115 Crying, “Unclean! unclean!” and in the folds Of the coarse sackcloth shrouding up his face, He fell upon the earth till they should pass. Nearer the Stranger came, and bending o’er The leper’s prostrate form, pronounced his name— 120 “Helon!” The voice was like the master-tone Of a rich instrument—most strangely sweet; And the dull pulses of disease awoke, And for a moment beat beneath the hot And leprous scales with a restoring thrill. 125 “Helon! arise!” and he forgot his curse, And rose and stood before Him.
Love and awe
Mingled in the regard of Helon’s eye As he beheld the Stranger. He was not In costly raiment clad, nor on His brow 130 The symbol of a princely lineage wore; No followers at His back, nor in His hand Buckler, or sword, or spear,—yet in His mien Command sat throned serene, and if He smiled, A kingly condescension graced His lips, 135 The lion would have crouch’d to in his lair. His garb was simple, and His sandals worn; His stature modell’d with a perfect grace; His countenance, the impress of a God, Touch’d with the open innocence of a child; 140 His eye was blue and calm, as is the sky In the serenest noon; His hair unshorn Fell to His shoulders; and his curling beard The fulness of perfected manhood bore. He looked on Helon earnestly awhile, 145 As if His heart were moved, and stooping down, He took a little water in His hand, And laved the sufferer’s brow, and said, “Be clean,” And lo! the scales fell from him, and his blood Coursed with delicious coolness through his veins, 150 And his dry palms grew moist, and his lips The dewy softness of an infant’s stole, His leprosy was cleansed, and he fell down Prostrate at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him.
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of surprises for Jesus’s new followers and for us.
Jesus begins to reveal what his Presence among us is all about. The message is this: I am here for the poor, hungry, sick and abandoned:
The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor and to proclaim liberty to captives.
And Jesus wants us to be like him.
In our first reading, John makes that sound so simple:
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.
1 John 4:8
Someone might read that line and think, “OK! I can do that! I love lots of people and things. I know how to love.”
But then our Gospel suggests that maybe we, like the disciples, have a lot to learn about how God loves. Mark shows us that Jesus is living a new kind of love.
Imagine the situation. John the Baptist has been murdered. The new disciples are returning from their first “apostolic gig”. They, and probably Jesus, are shocked, saddened and tired. Jesus recognizes this and tells them:
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
But instead the hungry crowds followed them, their needs intruding on the deserved and desired solitude. The disciples sound a little annoyed in their practicality:
By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
Mark 6: 35-36
But when Jesus saw the crowd, his response was not annoyance or practicality.
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd…
In the Greek translation, the word for “moved with pity” is “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” (Esplanchnisthē) – “splancha”
“Splancha”, in my mind, says that the heart of Jesus ”rumbled with mercy”; that he was so shaken to his roots with compassion that he pulled heaven down in a miracle to feed these people who were hungry at every level of their being.
The crowds, and indeed the disciples, are surprised not just by the cataract of fish and bread. But they are even more deeply astounded at this astounding demonstration of how God loves – with impractical, unlimited, immediate, miraculous generosity!
The lesson for us? Just as the disciples were commissioned to distribute the basketsful of miracles, we are charged to carry God’s mercy in our time.
Through the grace of Baptism, we have it within us to be the agent of miracles – the power to let God love through us. As John encourages us:
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
1 John 4:7
Poetry: Miracles by Robert William Service
Each time that I switch on the light A Miracle it seems to me That I should rediscover sight And banish dark so utterly. One moment I am bleakly blind, The next–exultant life I find. Below the sable of the sky My eyelids double darkness make. Sleep is divine, yet oh how I Am glad with wonder to awake! To welcome, glimmery and wan The mighty Miracle of Dawn. For I’ve mad moments when I seem, With all the marvel of a child, To dwell within a world of dream, To sober fact unreconciled. Each simple act has struck me thus– Incredibly miraculous. When everything I see and do So magical can seem to me, How vain it is to seek the True, The riddle of Reality . . . So let me with joy lyrical Proclaim all Life a Miracle.
Music: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another – a perky encouragement for your prayer 🙂