Forgiveness – the Heart of Mercy
November 29, 2013 § 2 Comments
Mercy. Forgiveness. When Jesus went around Galilee – healing and preaching – one of the things we see him doing over and over is telling people: Your sins are forgiven.
This came home to me a few weeks back, when I was reading the selections for one day’s liturgy. First there was a selection from Paul (Romans 15:14-21), next a parable from Luke (16:1-8). And I heard the words in a new way, a way which pertains to what I’ve been reaching towards in this blog (related to priesthood) as well as in my Nothingness blog (related to writing down my Soul in a sense).
Now, I’m going to quote Paul’s words but using two translations because I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and consulted various translation and commentaries, together with just treasuring these things in my heart for a bit. Till they ripened.
So here are Paul’s words as they struck me (in bold) – in relation to the parable and to my own experience of Holy Mystery:
I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another. But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus … in the priestly service of the Gospel of God … for I will not speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me … by the power of the Spirit of God.
Now, please forgive me. But I hear those words as if spoken through me – for you. And also to all of us for each of us. Our goodness. Our ability to instruct one another. Our (baptismal) priestly call to service. On behalf of the Gospel. And the fact that the Holy Spirit is working through each of us – for all of us – as ministers of Christ Jesus. That we too are called. Just as Paul was called. Out of our daily lives. Out of our limitations and waywardness. To hear the Gospel anew. And to serve it – as if we were servants bearing the food of the Word to a hungry world.
And what does the Gospel say – for that day in the Lectionary? What is the Gospel, in other words, that we are to spread? (Assuming we are in touch with God’s own Power in our lives – that we have experienced the healing touch of God’s undeserved Mercy. Which is, in a sense, how I read Paul’s words – as if the Holy Spirit is speaking them from within my heart.)
The Gospel Parable is one that has always been a mystery to me. Till now. It tells of the Steward squandering his Master’s property. That’s us, of course. And the threat of judgment, of being dismissed. Thrown out of the Kingdom. Which, God, in my own experience (now I’m speaking the Gospel as delivered to me in my own life) does not want to do. OK, the threat is there. We find it in the Gospel. Throughout the Bible. But the even stronger message (as delivered to me) is the never-ending, undeserved, unlooked-for (because undeserving – I think TS Eliot said something like that) MERCY of Divine Love.
And by the way, this is clearly what Pope Francis is getting at. Over and over. Through word and deed. And particularly in his most recent (and truly wonderful) apostolic exhortation: The Joy of the Gospel. (The link provides for a pdf download.) Where Francis makes it clear that indeed this joy is for all of us – to spread.
And what are we to spread? I honestly think that the “unjust” Steward, as he is sometimes called, turned to forgiveness. And we know that “forgiveness of debts” is part of the Our Father. And while it could mean actual objects of money, if we consider Jesus, who so often forgave sins even before he healed physical woes, then what are called to do? But to do as Jesus did. To go around offering Mercy. To all.
Not just to forgive those who have personally hurt us. But to extend Mercy and Forgiveness on a general basis. To all those, in particular, who are hurting, who are laboring under burdens. To lift those psychological burdens and spiritual burdens and physical burdens. Simply to go around – even in the quietness of our daily lives – extending that Love in ways big and small. To preach the Gospel – at all times. “If necessary with words.” (St. Francis said – and Pope Francis does and says.)
Go. And do likewise.