Readings (Year C):
Reflection: Looking for mercy and grace
Dry land emerging in the middle of the sea, rivers springing forth in wastelands. These are the acts of a God with infinite mercy and limitless grace. The first reading in Isaiah speaks to the Israelites, whose ancestors experienced the deliverance from Egypt, yet wandered for 40 years in the wilderness because they did not trust in God’s dramatic provision. Still, water flowed from rocks tapped by Moses’ wooden staff because God remained unfailingly committed to God’s covenant. From its very inception, this covenant first established with Abraham was drastically unbalanced. A promise from a perfect God to a flawed people, who continuously turned away. God never gave the Israelites what they really deserved, but God remained true to God’s just nature by forging a different way. God initiated a covenant that was held by an incomprehensible undercurrent of mercy and grace. From beginning to end, every page of the Bible tells this story.
Jesus embodies this in his interaction in the temple scene. The scribes and Pharisees formed a ring around the woman, accused of adultery, who they forced to stand in the center. This woman, wrested mid-act, must have been reeling with shame and full of acute fear as her life was threatened. The religious leaders wanted justice and power as a means of self-righteous validation. Jesus flipped the whole scene on its head, as he called for a different kind of examination for each individual present. He understood the motivations of the scribes and Pharisees, and likewise saw the true nature of the woman. Starting with the elders, as each man walked away one by one, it was as if there was a slow settling-in of what Jesus had done. With an exacting precision, he completely transformed the conversation and brought an undeserved mercy and grace to both the religious leaders and the woman.
As we come closer to Holy Week, we remember the ultimate expression of God’s commitment to God’s people in sending Jesus. Our just God desired eternal relationship with God’s creation but needed fair payment for the sin of humanity. Jesus was sent to live among us and die, paying the price for what we deserved. We once again come back to the foundations of our church being built upon God’s absurd choice to love people, even while knowing we will spend a lifetime turning away from God. Like a parent’s first gaze at their newborn, God’s profound affection remains steady with hope in who each of us can become and who we were created to be. During Holy Week, we relive Jesus’ final moments before he was crucified. In the washing of his disciples’ feet, in the stations of the cross, and as we recount the history of God’s relationship to God’s people, every salvific moment is flooded with mercy and grace.
Is there an area in your life where you need God’s compassionate mercy and grace? Or, are you being called to extend irrational mercy and grace to another?