In our violent and unsettled limes, some religious extremists, both Christian and Muslim, appear to be impatient for a death sentence to be imposed upon the entire human race. Better to cleanse this world by destroying it than to let us go about our complacently wicked ways. If this seems to have a twisted logic, our scripture readings make it clear that this is human weakness, after all. For God’s strength is, and ever has been, patience and forbearance.The full text of her reflection is here: Mercy, Me.
We know things are bad when we must turn to John the Baptist for comfort. What can this crusty, hard-edged character, dressed in animal skins and subsisting on locusts and wild honey, have to say to us? What possible relevance can he have?
John has always been a mysterious and troubling figure to me. I have never been sure where to place him, or how to listen to him. But today’s gospel makes John’s significance clear. He is one of the messengers that God always provides to wake us up and help prepare the way His words may bring to mind people in our own lives who have been such faithful harbingers of truth, those who have smoothed the way for us, leveling the rough places through which we must walk, even as they challenge us to seek to be the people God calls us to be.
When we look to John we find mercy made plain, for he points to God’s ultimate purpose, which is the forgiveness of our sins. No doubt aware that his words would seem strange, and even dangerous, likely to bring him to an unjust death, John insisted on God’s compassion and mercy. In the wilderness of hatred and violence that we have made of the world, John makes us ask, Can it be that mercy really is at the heart of God? It seems too good, and too bad, to be true. What room is there for our revenge, the satisfaction of seeing those we detest judged and put in their place? None whatsoever. But there is room for us, if we will only believe, as the epistle puts it, that God’s patience is salvation for us all. It’s when we are made to recognize our own neediness that we can stand, lost in wonder, praise and not a little exasperation, and give thanks as my grandmother Norris would do, saying only, "Oh, Mercy."
Labels: Gospel reading