Day 315: The Virtue of Mercy
Luke 6:1-11 The Pharisees had developed a very detailed code of behavior for the Sabbath and held that observant Jews had to avoid all forms of work on the Sabbath. Christ pointed out that tending to basic needs and works of charity are not forbidden but, in fact, highly appropriate, even on the Sabbath.
He entered the synagogue and taught: Christ was considered a rabbi, a teacher of the Mosaic Law. (CCC 581)
Ch 6:3-4 Have you not read what David did: A bit of irony since the Pharisees knew their Scripture well. A dozen loaves of bread, the Bread of the Presence, were placed in the Temple on every Sabbath and then consumed by the priests before the new loaves were substituted the following Sabbath. On one occasion, David and his companions were permitted to eat the Bread of the Presence due to their hunger (cf. 1 Sm 21:6). Christ implied that the same circumstances-the hunger of his disciples and his own kingship-provided justification for their actions. (CCC 2173)
Ch 6:5 Son of man: A term associated with the Messiah also used in the Book of Daniel (cf. Dn 7:13).
Ch 6:12-16 While many people followed Christ as his disciples, he selected twelve men to become his Apostles. The Apostles would eventually select other men to succeed them in their apostolic mission. The bishops of the Catholic Church with the Pope, the successor of Peter, as their head are successors of the Twelve Apostles. The number twelve symbolizes the twelve tribes of Israel. The Church that Christ established represents the new Kingdom of Israel. Christ spent a night in prayer prior to choosing his Apostles. (CCC 880-887, 1577, 2600)
Ch 6:17-49 Matthew relates the Sermon on the Mount while Luke records the Sermon on the Plains. There is no essential contradiction. Christ may have given several discourses to large crowds in various places and repeated many of the same themes. (CCC 1724)
Ch 6:17 Tyre and Sidon: Two Gentile towns north of Palestine.
Ch 6:19 All the crowd sought to touch him: Physical contact with Christ in a spirit of faith was enough to secure a cure from a particular malady. This association of external acts with healing grace is especially apparent in the Sacraments, especially the Anointing of the Sick. (CCC 695, 1116, 1504)
Ch 6:20-26 Luke lists only four Beatitudes but adds four “woes,” warning that those who enjoy an excess in earthly pleasures may experience a temporary or fleeting joy only to ultimately find life empty and without meaning. St. Ambrose saw in the four Beatitudes of Luke the four cardinal virtues of temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude. This contact with Christ to secure miraculous healing continues in the reception of the Sacraments. (CCC 2444, 2546-2547)
Ch 6:27-38 The central teaching of Christ’s ministry is commonly called the Golden Rule and is an extension of the Shema (cf. Dt 6:4-9). He calls for an unconditional love of our enemies and persecutors and a selfless generosity to those who are in need. (CCC 1789, 1970, 2510)
Ch 6:28 Bless those who curse you: A blessing is an example of a sacramental, a pious act that does not dispense grace but disposes us to receive it. Any baptized Christian can confer an informal blessing, but blessings that are linked to the Sacraments or to ecclesial matters are generally reserved for bishops, priests, and deacons. (CCC 1669-1670)
Ch 6:35 Sons of the Most High: Just as human parents transfer physical traits to their children, so those faithful to Christ’s words reflect the love and mercy of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made flesh. (CCC 1303)
Ch 6:36 Using an Old Testament reference to seek the holiness of God (cf. Lv 19:2), Christ effectively defined mercy as the ultimate mark of holiness and commanded his faithful to reach out to others in that mercy according to the example of the Father, who is so merciful in forgiving us our own sins. (CCC 1457-1458, 2842)
Ch 6:39-49 Christ again teaches the necessity of humility and true charity as an inspiration of our external acts. We must keep the Law and the Commandments in the proper spirit of faith, hope, and love. Our external acts must be an overflow of our love of God and neighbor. (CCC 1833, 2000)
Ch 6:41-42 Hypocrites correct the faults of others while not dealing with similar and greater faults within themselves. Only when we are sincere about our own failings and consequently demanding with ourselves can we become effective in helping others overcome their defects.
Ch 6:47-49 We not only must hear the Word of God but we must bring it to prayer with the intention of putting it into practice. The Word of God should form the backbone of our prayer life. The builder who did not build upon a solid foundation is likened to someone who does not respond to the Word of God in his or her daily life. (CCC 1802, 2587, 2665, 2766)
Ch 7:1-10 Lord...I am not worthy...be healed: The centurion’s words are prayed prior to the reception of Holy Communion. (CCC 1386)
Ch 7:11-17 The story of the widow of Nain, a town not far from Nazareth, is found only in Luke. It is also unique in that Christ healed the widow’s deceased son without being asked. Bringing the boy back to life foreshadowed Christ’s own Resurrection from the dead. (CCC 994)
Ch 7:12-14 Christ actually interrupted the funeral procession to console the mother and restore the dead man back to life. The widow’s grief was exacerbated by the fact that she now had neither a husband nor a son to support her. The responsibility to care for the poor and needy in society rests first with their families, then with others of generous spirit, and ultimately with society itself.
Touched the bier: Like in his contact with the leper, Christ performed an act that rendered him legally impure. In raising the young man not only did he reverse the state of legal impurity (i.e., physical death) but showed his divinity in an overwhelming way. (CCC 2208)
Ch 7:16 A great prophet has arisen: In the Old Testament, the prophets Elisha and Elijah raised people from the dead-notably, in both instances, the only sons of widows (cf. 1 Kgs 17:17-24; 2 Kgs 4:32-37)-so Christ was seen here as a prophet for having performed a similar miracle.
God has visited his people: As used in Scripture, this expression is recognition of a miraculous intervention by God. (CCC 1503)
Ch 7:18-35 Christ answered the question posed by the disciples of John the Baptist by pointing to his miracles and his preaching. It is not clear why John sent the messengers with the question since he had already acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that he may have “made this enquiry not from doubt or ignorance, but because he wished his disciples to be satisfied on this point by Christ. Therefore, Christ gave his reply to instruct these disciples, by pointing to the evidence of his miracles” (STh II-II, 2, 7, 2). (CCC 453, 523, 544, 547)
Ch 7:24-27 Christ praised John the Baptist as “more than a prophet,” thus compounding the iniquity of Herod Antipas, the ruler who would later behead John and play a role in Christ’s own execution as well. (CCC 719)
Ch 7:36-50 Although she was a great sinner, the woman with the perfume won more praise for her act of love than did the dinner host Simon, a Pharisee who failed to provide Christ with the basic courtesy of hospitality common at that time. The passage shows that true faith is inspired by repentance and charity. The love and faith of the woman won her forgiveness. Her love was so much the greater given the Lord’s forgiveness of her sins. This profound repentance is the necessary step in beginning a deep life of prayer. (CCC 575, 588, 1441, 2616)
Ch 8:1-3 Christ’s larger group of disciples included women. Not only did they play an important role as Christ’s followers but they were the first to announce his Resurrection. (CCC 641)
Ch 8:4-15 Parables are stories that illustrate truths about the dynamics of the Kingdom of God. The Parable of the Sower outlines the various ways people respond to the Word of God. Our disposition toward Christ must involve a total and firm desire coupled by a serious effort to imitate Christ in all facets of our life. Note how Christ privately explained the fullness of the parable to his disciples, to whom “it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God” (Lk 8:10), as part of their preparation for leadership in his Church. (CCC 546, 2607, 2668, 2731)
Ch 8:13-15 Bring forth fruit with patience: The first step of evangelization is the proclamation of the Word of God both in words and deeds. The journey of faith is incremental, and the trials encountered, if endured patiently and virtuously, build interior strength and advance spiritual growth. (CCC 854, 2847)
Ch 8:16-18 The Parable of the Lamp indicates that witnessing the love of Christ is an overflow of our interior life. A joyful love based on union with Christ will radiate through the darkness showing that Christ is the meaning of human life. (CCC 1186, 1955, 2715)
Ch 8:19-21 Christ’s response here was not a rejection of his mother and family but an illustration of how the spiritual bonds of God’s family transcend our human family. The word used to identify Christ’s other relatives is “brethren,” which has a much broader and vaguer meaning than our present use of brothers and sisters; a more accurate translation would be “relatives.” Mary enjoyed Perpetual Virginity and, therefore, Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, was her only Son.
Those who hear the word of God and do it: The Word of God requires a response in seeking always to do God’s will and keep his Commandments. (CCC 2716)
Ch 8:22-25 The Church is sometimes called the Barque of Peter, and one of her enduring symbols is that of a ship being tossed but never toppled on rough seas. Christ’s miraculous calming of the sea is an assurance that the Church will always survive in spite of any danger or persecution. We must be aware that Christ is always present among us ready to give his protection. (CCC 2743)
Ch 8:26-39 The story of the demoniac is similar to those accounts in the other Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mt 8:28-34; Mk 5:1-20). The demons within the victim immediately recognized Christ as the Son of God and departed from the man immediately upon Christ’s command. As in his forty days in the wilderness, Christ overcame the wiles of the Devil. (CCC 550)
Ch 8:26 Gerasenes: Refers to the Gentile city of Gerasa, which was east of the Jordan.
Ch 8:30 Legion: A Roman legion was comprised of approximately 5,000 soldiers. Here it is used to indicate that the victim was deeply in the grasp of evil and afflicted by many demonic spirits.
Ch 8:40-56 The faith of both Jairus and the woman with the hemorrhage is held up as an example for us. (CCC 1116)
Ch 8:41 Ruler of the synagogue: A chief Jewish elder who would lead worship and other activities in town.
Ch 8:43 A flow of blood: The woman’s continuous cervical bleeding had kept her ritually impure for twelve years.
Ch 8:52 She is not dead: Christ spoke of “sleeping” as a metaphor for death from which God will waken the dead, knowing that she would be brought back to life. (CCC 991)
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
GOSH!! WHAT A GIFT!!
One of the problems with going through all four Gospels is it’s hard to remember what we highlighted in the previous three
Also there is SO MUCH ACTION
We go through three chapters today and every one of these chapters is action packed
So here we are
In Matthew’s Gospel we had the Sermon on the Mount
In Luke’s Gospel we have the Sermon on the Plain
It is very very similar to the Sermon on the Mount
It’s an abbreviated form of what Jesus MUST HAVE PREACHED MULTIPLE TIMES
Jesus must have taught the beatitudes, blessings, and woes wherever he went
Jesus must have taught to love enemies also
When Jesus teaches about love for enemies, he is asking to do something that is RADICALLY DIFFERENT
In our day and age MERCY IS A VIRTUE
We have been so shaped for the last 2,000 years by Christianity
Graciousness and mercy are VIRTUES
They can be a virtue of honor
They can be behavior that is worth praising
Until Christianity, mercy was NOT considered to be a virtue
It was considered to be a WEAKNESS
Why would you EVER allow someone to do something evil and let them get away with it?
Why would you EVER forgive someone?
Why would you take those who were actually your ENEMIES and pray for them?
Why would you love them?
That doesn’t make any sense!!
It’s true, it doesn’t make any sense
Unless there is a HIGHER LAW THAN JUSTICE
We have talked about this so many times
In the Old Testament God reveals he is a GOD OF JUSTICE
We need to pay back what we owe
We are owed with what other people need to pay us back with
There is even a higher call
In the midst of justice, this higher call is MERCY
Mercy is very interesting
The Latin word for mercy is MISERICORDIA
That is where LOVE meets our NEED
That is where LOVE meets us in our MISERY
We’ve said this before and will say it a thousand times more…
MERCY IS THE LOVE THAT WE DO NOT DESERVE
MERCY IS LOVE WHEN WE NEED TO BE LOVED THE MOST AND WE DESERVE TO BE LOVED THE LEAST
So we have the story of the Centurion
He is in the village and he has a slave who needs healing
The people come to Jesus and say, “He’s worthy for you to do this. Because he loves our people. He built us a synagogue.”
The man, the Centurion, he KNOWS his state
He KNOWS the truth about himself
And he actually says, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come and enter under my roof…” (And admit it you completed the rest in your head…”But only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” 😉)
On one side the people are saying the Centurion is worthy
But the Centurion KNOWS HIS OWN HEART
And he knows, “Actually the truth is I’m NOT. I’M NOT WORTHY.”
This is an echo we have of John the Baptist
Yesterday when we read the story of the Baptism of Jesus
John the Baptist said, “I’m not worthy to untie the thongs of his sandals.”
Our world would say, “No John. Don’t get down on yourself. You are worthy.”
Our world would say, “Hey Centurion, don’t get down on yourself. You are worthy.”
The Centurion and John KNOW THE TRUTH
THE TRUTH IS I AM NOT WORTHY OF THIS LOVE
THE TRUTH IS I AM NOT WORTHY OF THIS GIFT
THE TRUTH IS I AM NOT WORTHY OF THIS MERCY
I NEED IT!!
I NEED IT!!
THAT IS EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US!!
“God, I am not worthy of your mercy. But I NEED it.”
Because God is so good, He gives us what we need
THAT IS AMAZING!!
ISN’T THAT INCREDIBLE??
Now we have to keep that IN BALANCE, those things that are in tension
It is very easy for so many of us to forget the worth we have in our Lord
The worth we have just because we are made in God’s image and likeness
The worth He bestows upon us by his Grace
We can focus on our sin and brokenness
We can forget our goodness because we are focusing on our brokenness
ON THE OTHER HAND…
We can be so focused on our goodness that we forget our brokenness
So there is a fine line that we are called to walk
“Lord, I am good in the fact that you have made me and you make things good. Ontologically, I’m good. Morally I am not. That yeah I have been made into your beloved creature, or even I have been baptized. I have been made into your son or daughter. But I don’t always live like that. So yes you have called me to great heights. But I have not yet risen to those heights. And I’ve not lived up to that gift you have given me.”
It’s interesting because Jesus says about John the Baptist, “He’s a prophet.”
Luke 7:28, “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
What does that mean?
NONE born of women is greater than John
YET those who are LEAST in the Kingdom of God is GREATER than he
How could Jesus say this?
For a number of reasons
But here is Fr. Mike’s interpretation
John the Baptist was not baptized IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
John the Baptist was not given the gift of being ADOPTED BY THE FATHER
Now he was given MANY GIFTS
The GREATEST Prophet
NO ONE GREATER
YOU GUYS, we know all the prophets by now
We know how GREAT they were
We know how INCREDIBLE they were
Here is John who is the GREATEST
The gift given to you and to me in our baptism, where God makes us into his beloved sons and daughters
He adopts us as his beloved sons and daughters
God speaks over you, “You are my beloved son/daughter. With you I am well pleased.”
That GIFT means that you have been raised GREATER than John the Baptist
HIGHER than John the Baptist
Not because you and I are more virtuous than John the Baptist
Because THE GRACE OF GOD resides in you
Because THE HOLY SPIRIT abides in you
As St. Peter says later on in the New Testament, “You have been made partakers of the divine nature.”
In your baptism you are made partakers in the divine nature
Meaning you share the very nature of God with him
He shares it with us
How do I live up to that?
On my own, I cannot
But with God, all things are possible
So we continue to pray and ask God for help to live up to this call
Help us to live up to what he has given us
Help us to live up to our baptism
We need God’s Grace to be able to do this
WHAT A DAY!!
WHAT AN INCREDIBLE GIFT
FR. MIKE IS PRAYING FOR YOU!!
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we give you praise and thank you. Thank you for this day. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for continuing to call us back to yourself so that we can not only hear your Word, but also see your Word, your Word Made Flesh in action. Lord God, as we hear the description of how your Son, Jesus Christ, has lived and walked among us, we see your heart. Your heart for those who are forgotten, your heart for those who are neglected, your heart for those who even are enemies. And God we know how often we’ve made ourselves your enemy. And what we see is we see your love. We see you commanding us to love our enemies because when we were your enemies, you loved us. When we had rebelled against you, you died for us. You gave your life for us. Help us to live our lives for you this day and every day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”