From July 18th through July 24th we will be sharing daily reflections from the Final Vow Retreat in Bungoma, Kenya. We ask that Brothers and Associates join Brothers Moses Wafula Barasa, Serge Lumbala Kachunga, Daniel Ongeso Ohola, Marc Kabwita Mufuka, and René Mambwe Kijiba in reflection, as these brothers prepare for their Final Vows. Please keep these brothers in your prayers, as well as their retreat leaders, Brothers Larry Harvey and Richard Mazza.
If you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.
Matthew 12: 7-8
Matthew’s account of this incident from the life of Jesus mitigates the strength of Mark’s earlier version, leaving out the powerful statement: “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath” (Mark 2: 27). But Matthew adds the reference to Hosea 6:6, by which Jesus tells the Pharisees that the laws, even the most important of them, are not ends in themselves. There is something more important than the law and even than sacrifice, and that is “mercy,” hesed. The law is the manifestation of the “loving kindness” and forgiveness that is the heart of the covenant relationship with God. For Jesus, the living out of the law is an expression, not a cause, of our friendship with God, and love always manifests in mercy and forgiveness. There is a certain view of the “spiritual life” that strives toward a kind of perfection that will never require forgiveness or mercy. But Jesus constantly reminds us that to be human is to fail God, ourselves, and each other and that to remain in relationship and in love will always require the giving and receiving of forgiveness.
In one of his weekly Angelus addresses, Pope Francis offered the following reflections on love and mercy:
“The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness. It is the joy of the shepherd who finds his lost sheep; the joy of the woman who finds her lost coin; the joy of the father who welcomes home his lost son.”
“This is all the Gospel, here; this is Christianity! But this is not sentimentalism or bland ‘do-goodism’; on the contrary, mercy is the true force that can save humanity and the world from the ‘cancer’ of sin, from moral and spiritual malaise. Only love can fill the gaps, the negative abysses that evil opens up in our hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is the joy of God.”
The Holy Father said that each one of us is an image of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son and that we are never forgotten or abandoned by God despite the circumstances. God always remains faithful to us while respecting our freedom. However, the Pope warned, there is a danger that we presume we are right because of our free will, thus leading us to judge others.
“We also judge God, as we think He should punish sinners and condemn them to death, instead of forgiving them,” the Pope said.
“This way we risk remaining outside our Father’s house, like the elder brother in the parable, who instead of rejoicing in his brother’s return, is angry with his father for welcoming him and celebrating. If there is no mercy in our hearts, if we do not experience the joy of forgiveness, we are not in communion with God, even if we observe all the commandments, because it is love that saves, not the simple observance of rules. It is in love for God and for our neighbour that the commandments are fulfilled.”