3 thoughts on ““Merciful Like the Father,” Part 38 – Fulfilled in One Statement

  1. While I understand what you’re saying and I completely agree with Flannery O’Connor’s sentiment, I’m having a really hard time detecting any mercy shown by either Elijah or Jesus in the instances cited which is probably a good example of why I am such a flawed Christian! 😉

  2. You are not alone! We’re all flawed!

    But more to your point, these are some of the hardest passages for our hearts and minds to comprehend. The most succinct way I can think of to say it, however poorly, is: being merciful doesn’t equal being nice. We’re not called to be simply nice; we’re called to fulfill the task of reconciling every person on Earth, including ourselves, to God. That is the vocation behind the great commandment that Jewish tradition, Jesus and Paul so highly prioritized, the one that (as the title of this post indicates) fulfills the whole Law in one statement: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And sometimes, to demonstrate the supreme priority of this shared vocation, mercy demands that a hard example (especially a non-violent one!) shake us out of any overly sugary or romantic notions we have about it.

    “I’m calling you right now to help me to serve the God both you and I worship,” the anxious Elijah is saying between the lines, “and you want to wait? And why should you need to say good-bye to a family you’re about to enlarge by leaps and bounds?” Similarly, when Jesus says “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” He’s saying, “I am calling you out of this world order to help perform the foremost of tasks; therefore, you need to understand at the outset that everything else this world thinks is important is secondary at best from now on.” To paraphrase Leo McGarry to Ainsley Hayes in the second season of The West Wing: the Lord is asking us to serve, and everything else is…well, not crap exactly, but less. 😉

    This isn’t supposed to be a hobby or an intellectual exercise or some philosophical discipline from which we can pick out the parts we like and discard the rest. This is faith born of relationship. This is trusting that He meant what He said when He said all He said. And it really is so much harder to do that than not do that, as these readings show so starkly. But it’s what you have to do in a relationship, whether it’s with God or a friend or a lover or family or a co-worker or whoever. If the trust isn’t there, or at least in process – or “flawed,” as you put it! – there can’t be any real relationship. Just words. Empty gestures. Mere formality.

    Y’know, what most people think of when they think of the Church. 😉

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