Thursday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
September 12, 2019
Today, in Mercy, we have one of the most beautiful yet demanding readings in the Bible – Colossians 3:12-17.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness,
humility, gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another
if any of you has a grievance against someone.
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.
I remember our beloved Mother Mary Bernard recommending this passage to us when we were only novices – so unripe in our pursuit of spirituality. Since that treasured recommendation, I have prayed with this passage thousands of times. It never fails to reveal something new, deeper, and challenging.
A particularly pregnant verse is this:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
Gosh, the way it’s translated there makes it sound like a Valentine, doesn’t it?
But take a look at the Douay-Rheims Version, the translation popular before the Jerusalem Bible of the 1960s:
Put ye on therefore, as the elect of God, holy, and beloved,
the bowels of mercy…
The Greek word for “mercy” here is σπλάγχνα – splagchnon or splancha. And it means “guts” – bowels. So there goes our Valentine! You wouldn’t want to get that picture on a greeting card!
What Paul is preaching is not a lovey-dovey sweet religiosity. He wants mercy, and all the accompanying virtues, to grab our guts and never let go until we love as radically as Jesus loves.
We all know what “splancha” feels like:
- It’s the way your heart twists with adrenaline when a truck runs the red light just hair in front of you.
- It’s the way your stomach tosses when it’s your turn for your first public speaking foray.
- It’s the way your throat catches when you have to speak the words of a beloved’s death.
- It’s the tears that well up unbidden when you kiss your sleeping child.
Splancha is the place where we are tied to other human beings so deeply that it is visible only to God.
It is the place where our soul’s umbilical cord is knit with God’s womb, that sacred place where we are recreated again and again in the Holy Spirit by our acts of mercy and love for one another.
God wants us to have “splancha love” for every one of God’s Creatures. God wants us to make that love real in our acts of mercy and justice. Paul is telling us how to do it today.
Music: How He Loves Us – sung by Kim Walker Smith with Jesus Culture
This song was composed by John Mark McMillan. This beautiful video about his composition is a real witness story. I encourage you to take the time to watch it.