All posts tagged: mercy

And the Nominees Are . . . Manchester By the Sea

Editors’ Note: In anticipation of the 89th Academy Awards on February 26, we present a series exploring the philosophical and theological elements in each of the nine films nominated for Best Picture. Caveat: this review contains spoilers. When life is defined by the worst mistake you’ve ever made, how do you go on living? Writer-director Kenneth Lonergan poses this heart-wrenching question and several others like it in Manchester By the Sea, the story of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), an isolated janitor living in Boston who must return to his hometown after his beloved brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) passes away unexpectedly, and, even more unexpectedly, names Lee the legal guardian of sixteen-year-old Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Joe’s only son and Lee’s only nephew. When Lee learns that Joe has not only named him Patrick’s guardian but has also provided funds for him to return to Manchester permanently, he recoils, making every attempt to find another way to provide for his nephew’s care. At first, this seems like the reaction of a selfish, irresponsible man who doesn’t want to be saddled with the burden of an unexpected, …

Forgive Us Our Debts: A Catechesis of Mercy in the Early Church

Matthew and Luke’s Gospels chronicle Jesus’ instruction to the Apostles concerning genuine prayer (Mt 6:5–15; Lk 11:1–13). The words of the Our Father—Jesus’ archetype of prayer—represent the unique liturgical usage of the prayer of the evangelists’ contemporary communities.[1] The theology presented therein was assimilated by the succeeding post-apostolic generations towards a catechetical formula of instruction (traditio) and recitation (redditio) in preparation for the Christian rite of Baptism.[2] This pedagogy of spiritual instruction was meant to form within the soon-to-be Christian a recourse to God, requesting that she might remain faithful to her promises to be made in the creed in the face of her own debts (sins) and a world hostile to the Gospel; by practicing the petition “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” the catechumen was formed in the experiential truth of Christ’s reconciling act.[3] She was grounded in what Pope Francis has linguistically constructed as misericordiando—the “mercy-ing” of the Lord.[4] This catechesis of mercy is central to the exegesis and theological writings of the early Church concerning this primary attribute …

The Hospitality of God

Jesus has come into the world to throw a party. It’s a party unlike any other that’s been held. See, when I throw a party, I want to have the right people present. I want the key friends, who need to be impressed by my keen aesthetic sense. I want important people, who should be overwhelmed by my hospitality because then I’ll be invited to their house where I can meet other important people. Jesus’ party is different, because it embodies the hospitality of God: “‘When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor . . . when you are invited, go and take the lowest place’” (Lk 14:8, 10). Jesus notes that if indeed the bridegroom seeks to have you at the first place at the table, you’ll be invited. But don’t presume it. Be happy to be present at all. If the parable simply ended there, then it would be very good advice for attending a party; a way to avoid appearing …

The Urgency of Salvation

The final chapter of the Book of Isaiah describes how Israel will draw all nations to itself, redeeming the entire human family. The nations of “Tarshish, Put and Lud, Mosoch, Tubal and Javan” (present-day Spain, Libya, Turkey, and Greece) will hear for the very first time about the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob (Is 66:19). Members of the tribes of each of these nations will stream toward Jerusalem, the holy mountain. Not only will they worship God as the people of Israel do but “Some of these I will take as priests and Levites, says the LORD” (Is 66:21). Those once outside the covenant will become those responsible for priestly ministry of this covenant. Yet, in the Gospel of Luke, a starker story is told by Jesus: “‘Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough’” (Lk 13:24). Jesus is noting that there are many attempting to enter into the Kingdom of God, milling about in front of the …

Diagnosing violence: A response to Christine Horner

Dear Ms. Horner, Under normal circumstances, I would have found it easy to resist the impulse to comment on your recent brief and public letter to Pope Francis in The Huffington Post  in which you “implore” him “to call for an end to the religious ritual” that has been a part of the Catholic Mass for centuries—that of repeating the words of the Centurion to Christ “Lord I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof…”—an expression you declare to be “one of the most destructive phrases in human history.” I don’t usually take the time to comment on the conversation taking place in the blogosphere.  But I found I had to make an exception in this case. My hesitancy to enter the fray was overcome by the new escalation of violence that has taken our country—indeed the entire world—by surprise over the last several weeks. Even with the increasingly commonplace reality of terrorist attacks and rising homicide rates, the vicious attack abroad in Nice and the tragic events at home in Baton Rouge, …

The Mystery of Mercy

Seeing through mercy changes what we see. With conferences for four distinct communities this summer (and two already completed), Notre Dame Vision has ventured into the mystery of mercy in three moments: revelation, reception, and response. Mercy is first revelation, because God always makes the first move. In the Book of Exodus, God is introduced as the one who hears and acts (Ex 2:23-25). By what He does, God reveals who He is. Our first task in the journey of mercy is to be attentive, to be still, to take a chance on being the ones upon whom the dawn of mercy breaks. Mercy demands the discipline of reception, of learning how to receive the gift of God’s love that comes to meet us in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is among the most challenging of tasks, especially in modern life, because receiving the gift of God’s mercy will require us to change, accommodating grace in our lives. In some respects, we will have to see ourselves and each other by a …

The Stinginess of the Sinner

We often think about sin as extravagance. The sinner is the one who drinks too much, gambles too much, who desires pleasure too much. On the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time, we consider the stinginess of the sinner. The sinner who loves not enough. The Gospel from Luke is rich in drama. Jesus is dining at table with a Pharisee when a sinful woman enters the home. We do not know the nature of the sin, but we know that it was known by all those assembled at table that day. It was public. She enters the house, washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, and anoints him with oil. Here, the sinful woman joins in the work of public penance performed by King David. David recognizes his sins and calls out to God for forgiveness. He lays on sackcloth through the night: “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done” (Ps 32:5c). David does penance extravagantly. The unnamed woman does penance extravagantly. Simon is stingy: “‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who and …

The Deacon as an Agent of Social Change

My assignment, “The Deacon as an Agent of Change in the Community,” is a daunting one, to say the least.* I tried to refuse the great honor of tackling this topic, suggesting some better qualified people to speak to the dynamics of social change, informed by Catholic Social Teaching. One of several liabilities I bring to this task is that not only am I not a deacon myself, but the theology and practice of the diaconate are simply not something I’ve studied or thought about much. I do bring an interest in questions of faith and culture and the way they interact in the Church’s pastoral ministry, especially preaching. But I don’t have a deep, on-the-ground knowledge of the ecology of the city, urban sociology, or the practicalities of social change. Moreover, I’m very aware that I speak as an outsider to this community, a community which appears to be passing through a kind of anguish at this historical moment over events in Ferguson. But perhaps this limitation in speaking here today can also be …

Christ’s Sacrifice of Mercy

Jesus, because he remains forever, has a high priesthood which does not pass away. Therefore he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he forever lives to make intercession for them. It is fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. Hebrews 7: 24–27 Of the many words that describe Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews, Son, Lord, heir, first-born, the great shepherd of the sheep, and mediator, the most distinctive description is high priest. Starting with this description, this passage from Hebrews invites us to explore what sets Jesus apart from other high priests, in particular, his unique lineage and the nature of his sacrifice. The first distinction comes in the earlier verses of chapter seven, that Christ’s priesthood is …

A Sinner Among Sinners

Israel understands itself as a nation existing only through God’s extraordinary mercy. Blotted out from the earth because of their sins against the poor, their wars carried out for the sake of prosperity, and their political alliances that led to idolatry, God nonetheless restores them from captivity in Babylon. The God who led Israel out of Egypt through the Red Sea acts once again: “Remember not the events of the past,/the things of long ago consider not;/See, I am doing something new!” (Is 44:18–19). The dryness of the desert will now become a place of water, sustaining Israel as they come back from exile. The psalmist notes that Israel must never forget the surprising mercy of God: “When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,/we were like men dreaming./Then our mouth was filled with laughter,/and our tongue with rejoicing” (Ps 126:1–2). Those who could not sing a song of Zion in a foreign land (cf. Ps 137:3–4) now stand in the rebuilt Temple, singing a hymn of praise to God. It is this merciful …