All posts tagged: mercy

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 …