Abishai whispered to David:
“God has delivered your enemy into your grasp this day….
But David said to Abishai, “Do not harm him,
for who can lay hands on the LORD’s anointed and remain unpunished?”
(from 1 Sm 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23)
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
(from Lk 6:27-38)
Pondering the Word…
reflected on the Old Testament passage, I thought about the mercy David
shows Saul, the same mercy he granted him a few chapters earlier. The more I
reflected, the more I questioned: Is it mercy David shows? Or is it really
just concern about the risk of punishment if he harms “the Lord’s anointed?”
David shows little mercy for some others he encounters as the story of his
world would be a better place if people showed mercy, even if it was for
self-centered reasons, just as it would be if people were charitable in
hopes of heavenly reward. But Jesus tells us, “Be merciful as your Father is
merciful.” How do we do that? God doesn’t gain anything from showing us
mercy. God’s very nature is Love, so there’s nothing else he can do. God
just loves us…that is what we are called to as well…just love.
Mercy is forgiveness, but at a deeper level. It is what Jesus speaks about
in today’s gospel. It is a willingness to be vulnerable, to put aside
bitterness and retribution, and in some cases, our better judgment. Mercy
doesn’t mean being a doormat or enduring abuse. It accepts sin as part of
the human experience but releases both the victim and the perpetrator from
the weight that sin imposes.
there a call for love and real mercy in your life?
Living the Word…
you ever experienced granting or receiving real, true mercy? It is humbling
to receive mercy. Many of us don’t want mercy with no strings attached. We
don’t want to be in someone’s debt, and that is likely why, when it comes to
granting mercy, we “do to others as we would have them do to us.” We have a
hard time granting mercy, too. It can also be why accepting God’s mercy is
difficult and why some go to extreme lengths to mortify themselves instead
of simply and humbly accepting God’s love.
is also humbling--and incredibly freeing--to grant mercy. There is no pride
or power attached; it is not granted because “I can.” Real mercy comes from
a deep well of compassion fed by our constant acceptance of God’s mercy for
us. Look around your life today. Are there places of pain that would benefit
from love? Allow yourself to receive mercy and grant mercy. Experience the
difference it can make in your life.
(NOTE: PROVISIONS FOR THE JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM BEGIN NEXT WEEK)
whom has wisdom's root been revealed? Who knows her subtleties? To whom has
the discipline of wisdom been revealed? And who has understood the
multiplicity of her ways?”
passage from Book of Sirach (sometimes called Ben Sira) strikes me as in
keeping with Pope Francis’ focus on pastoral care. Pastoral care is not
about hard and fast rules. There are subtleties, a multiplicity of ways
those who are wise can employ when giving care to the wounded or neglected
members of the flock. Jesus knew the law and could recite it word for word.
But more importantly, he was gifted with the Spirit’s wisdom to reach out
with compassion to those the law rejected. We too are called to be wise. How
will you reach out today to someone who has been left behind?
“Knowledge is proud that it knows so much. Wisdom is humble that it knows no
(William Cowper) (Note: Sirach
is found in the Apocrypha of most Protestant Bibles. It is not found in the
Hebrew Masoretic Text but some of its wisdom appears in other canonical
books in the Old Testament.)
He ask(ed) them, "What were you arguing about on the
way?" But they remained silent. For they had been discussing among
themselves on the way who was the greatest.
of the Apostles—probably James and John (the “sons of thunder”) and maybe
Peter and Andrew— are walking behind Jesus bickering about who is the best
disciple. I see Nathaniel — the one in whom Jesus saw no guile— rolling his
eyes. Then Jesus asks them to ‘share with the rest of the class’ what they
were arguing about! Those involved are shamed into silence. Jesus instructs
them gently: being first, being the best, even if it is being the best
disciple, is a human goal, a desire of the false self. If we do good only
out of obligation, to gain heaven, or to outshine the competition; if our
humbleness and humility are a source of pride, then our intent is still
self-centered. St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Above all the grace and
gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” Is
there any part of your ‘self’ you might need to overcome today?
said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and
we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us."(Mk
Whoever this guy is, he is not part of “the group.” ‘Who does he think he
is, invoking Jesus’ name and driving out demons?’ Jesus makes it clear to
John: if he is healing in my name,
belief is sincere. Don’t stop him. Something to consider if we think one
must be from this or that denomination in order to speak for Christ. If real
good is being done for all of God’s children and for creation in Christ’s
name, let us all celebrate!
“Of forgiveness be not overconfident, adding sin upon sin. Say not:
"Great is his mercy; my many sins he will forgive."…Delay not your
conversion to the LORD, put it not off from day to day. (Sir
Hmmh…so how do we feel about this passage? God’s mercy is great, and
yes, our many sins he will forgive if we but turn to him in sincere sorrow
with a heart intent on improving, even when we fail again. Our conversion to
the Lord is in our hands. It is something we can achieve each minute of each
day, no matter where we stand right now. We can be confident in God’s
forgiveness, waiting for us to return.
“Let your acquaintances be many, but one in a thousand your confidante.”
There’s a book I recommend to kids going off to college (and their parents)
called, The Freshman Survival Guide. My favorite chapter is entitled,
“Be Generous with Your Friendship but Stingy with your Trust.” Good advice,
like the advice we read today. It’s also why our relationship with God is so
important: if it is based on trust and love, we’ll always have a confidante,
someone to turn to in difficult times. This is important for all of us, but
particularly for young people as they venture out into the world. Encourage
your children to keep the lines of communication open with God, the one who
will always be there for them.
He created for them counsel, and a tongue and eyes and ears, and an
inventive heart…He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their
The message today has bearing on debates that arise between scientific
progress and religion. Ben Sira acknowledges the goodness of the
intellectual and inventive gifts God has given humankind, but the final
phrase provides the context: our great inheritance from God is the law of
life. Our knowledge, inventions, and wisdom are to respect for the law of
life under which we exist. As we examine issues such as bioethics, the
sanctity of life, and social reform, remember the wisdom of Ben Sira. And
remember, this law applies to all life. What is good for all of creation—not
just humanity or my country or myself-- is the law of life.