Today, in Mercy, Jesus offers his good-byes as time approaches for him to return to the Father.
His friends are sad. Wouldn’t you be? What a guy to have known, and palled around with, and loved – in person! But now it’s time for Jesus to return to his role in the Blessed Trinity. And it is time for the Holy Spirit’s continuing role in the world to begin.
Jesus describes the Spirit’s role as one that will set things right by:
showing the world its mistake in rejecting Jesus
making clear that Jesus’s teaching was right and just
condemning any evil that denies Christ’s teaching
The Holy Spirit will do all this in a different way from Jesus. Jesus was beside his disciples showing them the way to live – and he still is. But the Holy Spirit in within the People of God, working through our communal love, mercy, and justice to transform all Creation.
So Jesus is telling us not to be sad. He is still with us in Scripture and Sacrament. But now our experience of being with God is enriched by the indwelling Spirit who breathes Life to the world through our faith.
What an astounding good-bye Gift! Do we appreciate it, respond to it — even realize we have received it? We are capable of so much more than a small understanding of God. Let us ask to be opened to that Power.
Jesus talks about the kind of blowback his disciples can expect for living their faith inan inimical world. He gives us some “if … then” statements:
If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.
If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.
If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
Reading these verses makes me wonder if I am really living the Gospel, because I don’t feel all that persecuted.
And then I think that this is because I really live in two worlds. I live in first world comfort and security. But there is also a part of me that agonizes daily over the injustice rampant in our shared world. Today’s Gospel challenges me to live more intentionally in that second world.
Walter Brueggemann says this:
Faith is both the conviction
that justice can be accomplished
and the refusal to accept injustice.” – Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out
Jesus was not persecuted simply because he did miracles and preached love. This loving, life-giving ministry confronted the dominant, government-generated culture which relied on the subjugation and despair of those they dominated.
I don’t aspire to martyrdom. But I do want to be a true disciple of Jesus. The way available to us is to live and act with mercy and compassion for the poor, marginalized people Jesus so loves. We can do this by voting, advocating for, and sponsoring programs and agendas for social justice.This link from the Sisters of Mercy is a help on how to do that:
Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism, for it announces that the hurt is to be taken seriously, that the hurt is not to be accepted as normal and natural but is an abnormal and unacceptable condition for humanness. In the arrangement of “lawfulness” in Jesus’ time, as in the ancient empire of Pharaoh, the one unpermitted quality of relation was compassion. Empires are never built or maintained on the basis of compassion.” (Prophetic Imagination)
May our hearts be moved by grace to the depth of compassion we have learned from Jesus.
P.S. I know that many of you have responded to this request I placed on Facebook. Thank you. For those who don’t do Facebook, this is an urgent request for help for refugees at our southern border. It’s an easy way to do some good things.It was received from Sisters of Mercy Leadership Team in D.C.
Today, in Mercy, our readings again visit the question, “Who belongs to family of God?”.
Peter, upon returning to Jerusalem from Joppa, faces the Jewish Christians who are only learning how to live their new faith. They don’t get it that Gentiles are invited too to this emerging faith community.
They, like many of us, find security in the categories we build into our lives. We separate those who belong and don’t belong – sometimes to assure ourselves that we belong in certain preferred categories. We decide who is OK and who is not. The Gentiles were not OK church members for the Jerusalem Christians.
Peter is very patient with these critics. Point by point, he explains how his own understanding was informed by the Holy Spirit, so that he saw clearly that Christ’s invitation was for all people.
This reading challenges us to examine our “categories”, our biases and prejudices. Who is OK in my book, and who is suspect or questionable? In my thinking, who has a “right” to certain goods, positions and privileges? Who would I not invite to my table based on my predetermined “categories”?
With Christ, there are no privileged categories. We are each the privileged child of God, universally redeemed in the blood of Christ.
As I pray with this thought today, how might my attitudes and choices be affected?
Today, in Mercy,our readings offer copious lessons as well as an enthralling drama from the Book of Daniel.
We have heard the original story many times, and seen it repeated, down through the ages, in innumerable forms: a woman targeted by lecherous men, innocence betrayed by treachery, power exercised in destructive selfishness. When we see goodness vindicated in this story, we feel a certain victory for the ages! Am I right?
While the story’s surface addresses sexual assault and false condemnation, its heart is about power and truth. Susanna and Daniel embody these virtues. The two corrupt judges manifest their distortion.
In our Gospel, Jesus proclaims his identity as the Light of the World. He confronts the Pharisees because they “judge by appearances” rather than by truth. They use their power to oppress rather than to free.
Power and truth suffer terribly in today’s world. They are obscured by the same darknesses we see in the story of Susanna – conspiracy, secrecy, false accusation, dissimulation, malfeasance, and total disregard for human pain. Ultimately, it is always the innocent and poor who suffer most in such an atmosphere.
We pray today for Divine Light for every hidden darkness, for bravery like Daniel’s, for fidelity like Susanna’s, and for truthfulness to make us worthy of the Name of Christ.
Music: A mantra based on John 14 – The Spirit of Truth
Today, in Mercy, we begin with the powerful and moving story of Joseph – sweet, innocent son of of Jacob who was betrayed by his brothers. Jacob sends Joseph to work with his brothers, believing they love him. He was wrong.
Our Gospel then tells the story of the frustrated landowner who sent his son on mission to settle his accounts. though the landowner’s servants had been abused by the tenants, he believed his son would be respected. He was wrong.
Both these stories are prototypes of the Father sending Jesus to redeem us. The intention is the same. The hope is the same. Unfortunately, the result is the same.
In our Gospel, Jesus realizes that the Father’s hope for him will not be met with openness and acceptance. He sees the Pharisees milling around in hateful conversation.Referencing the parable, Jesus says:
“The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you
and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables,
they knew that he was speaking about them.
And although they were attempting to arrest him,
they feared the crowds, for the crowds regarded him as a prophet.
This morning, let’s pray for all those who send their beloveds out in hope to do good in the world:
for police officers, firefighters, first responders whose families send them out each day always fearing for their safety
for medical personnel who risk sickness in their care for others
for missionaries and justice workers who encounter threat and danger in helping others
for peacekeepers and military who work to end war and tyranny
for all of us when we reach out in justice and courage, hoping to be received with respect and mutuality
May the example of Christ inspire and sustain us to do our part for God’s continuing redemption of the world.
Today, in Mercy, our Gospel gives us the disturbing parable of the rich man, sometimes called Dives, and Lazarus, a very poor man.
The story is disturbing because
Lazarus suffers so desperately
Dives is impervious to that suffering
God won’t give Dives a break after his death
We fear being in either of these guys’ situations
Probably, like most people, we’d rather be rich than poor. But would we rather be generous with that wealth or selfish? Do we ever find ourselves thinking thoughts like this, deciding we’re not responsible for the gap between rich and poor:
“I worked hard for what I have. Let everybody else do the same!”
That wealth gap cannot be mended simply by giving a dollar to a corner beggar nor by donating our wornout clothes to Goodwill. This kind of re-balancing requires a conversion of heart which touches our economic, political and moral understanding.
I was struck this morning by this headline from The Economist, a British weekly magazine.
How can today’s Gospel inspire and encourage us in a global culture that infcreasingly marginalizes persons who are poor, resourceless, and politically oppressed?
May the story of Lazarus and Dives influence us to use the powers we have to make just and generous decisions.
We can vote for just, generous and moral leaders.
We can advocate for universally just policies.
We can donate to compassionate causes.
We can confront hateful speech and stereotyping.
We can speak and act for justice, peace, inclusivity and mercy.
We just have to be courageous before, like Dives, it is too late for us.
Today, in Mercy, our Gospel tells the story of Mrs. Zebedee, who sought a prejudiced advantage for her two disciple sons.
Jesus said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered him, “Command that these two sons of mine sit, one at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.”
Sounds a little like something ripped from today’s headlines, doesn’t it.
There is a natural inclination to advantage those we love. But when we do so to the unjust disadvantage of others, that’s a problem.
We know from experience that people use various points of leverage to gain advantage in life. We see people use money, power, political connections, and other influences to get a job, choose a school, land an important invitation, get a traffic ticket written off, etc., etc. Maybe, on occasion, we are one of those people.
Today’s Gospel teaches us a lesson. In gaining such advantage, we may, as Jesus says, “not know what we are asking for”. Can we actually DO the job, succeed in the school, … become a better person by what we have maniputively gained?
The Gospel also brings before us the “other people” who lost the right to what we unjustly claimed. How do they begin to see us? What do we lose in respect and mutuality within our community? How do we begin to see ourselves in relationship to justice, honesty, sincerity and truth?
Jesus hopes that we will love every person to the extent that we want her/his just advantage as much as we want our own? That is the “cup” He drinks through his Passion and Death.
Let us ponder Jesus’s question to us: Can you drink the cup that I will drink?
Today, in Mercy, we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The very way the Church defines the Feast tells us a great deal about Joseph. Men are seldom described by their relationship to a woman.It is more often the other way around. Consider our lingering custom of wives assuming their husband’s surnames, for example.
But Joseph is known because of his connection to Mary. He is a steady force in the background of her life and the life of Jesus. Joseph is the kind, generous and faithful one who nurtures and protects them.
And he is the silent one. Not a single word was ever recorded from him. What we know of Joseph issues from his actions. For example, before he knew that Mary had conceived through the Holy Spirit:
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
This virtue of righteousness sums up the character of Joseph as we find him in scripture. Righteousness is complementary to justice.
Walter Brueggemann in his book, Journey to the Common Good, says this about the relationship between justice and righteousness:
“Justice in the Old Testament concerns distribution in order to make sure that all members of the community have access to resources and goods for the sake of a viable life of dignity…. Righteousness concerns active intervention in social affairs, taking an initiative to intervene effectively in order to rehabilitate society, to respond to social grievance, and to correct every humanity-diminishing activity.”
Joseph exercised such righteousness not only in responding to Mary’s unexpected pregnancy. He took the risk of becoming a refugee family in order to save Jesus’s infant life. After the finding in the Temple, he stepped into the background in order to allow young Jesus to assume his teaching vocation. No doubt, during the silent years which then surround Joseph, he continued to live an active life doing good for his family and community, and quietly fostering the ministry of Jesus.
Despite the scarcity of recorded knowledge about Joseph, there is an ample devotional treasury describing him. It is captured in outline form in the Litany to St. Joseph, a prayer I learned to love because it was one of my father’s favorites. I sometimes say just a few lines, slowly, to let the holiness of Joseph call me deeper into my own spiritual life.
(Music is below the Litany.)
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us.
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.
Holy Mary, pray for us (after each line)
Renowned offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Diligent protector of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,
Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most strong,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,
Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of artisans,
Glory of home life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Solace of the wretched, Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Protector of Holy Church,
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us.
V. He made him the lord of His house:
R. And ruler of all His substance.
Let us pray.
O God, who in Your unspeakable providence chose blessed Joseph to be the spouse of Your own most holy Mother: grant, we ask, that we may deserve to have him for our intercessor in heaven, whom we reverence as our defender on earth. Amen.