21 September 2007

Mercy not sacrifice, sinners not the just

St. Matthew: Eph 4.1-7, 11-13 and Matthew 9.9-13
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club Mass & Church of the Incarnation

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We are urged by Paul, a prisoner for the Lord, to live lives worthy of the call we have received. How do we do this? As always, Jesus has the truth of our answer. If you do nothing else with your life in Christ, do this: “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Jesus’ own gloss on this grand statement immediately follows: “I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.” If we are urged to live lives worthy of the call we have received and the call we have received is Christ’s call to us as sinners to repentance and we come to the fullness of the truth of who Christ is and what he does when we learn the meaning of “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” then we have a single choice for our salvation, the same choice Christ gives the odious customs officer, the damnedable tax collector, Matthew: “Follow me.”

Follow Christ.

If Jesus can approach a Jewish man who works for the Roman version of the IRS, and say to him with all sincerity and grace, “Follow me,” then we can all find ourselves sitting at that customs post, working for the enemy of our own people, our own nation, and hear Jesus’ call to repentance, living lives worthy of that call. We, along with Matthew, are sinners and we, along with Matthew, are pressed into a daily conversion, a weekly transformation that moves us step by step, leap by leap closer and closer to the One Body, the One Spirit, “the one hope of [our] call.” That one hope is this: that we come to allow into our lives, lives made worthy by Christ and our repentance, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all”—one Father of ALL.

The one sacrifice of Christ on the cross is every sacrifice will we ever need to make. There is nothing else for us to sacrifice. What can we sacrifice that is a better gift, a greater oblation than the self-sacrifice of the Son of God for our eternal lives? My own life, given in suffering and death for another, is efficacious only b/c Christ gave his own life in suffering and death for us all first. In other words, my death for you or your death for me is a sacrifice worthy of our call b/c Christ, in his one sacrifice on the cross, has already made every sacrifice we will ever make a success before we make it. Therefore, as ones called to live worthily in Christ, we are to live lives of mercy and not lives of sacrifice!

What would such a life look like? Paul, a prisoner of the Lord, writes to the Ephesians that they are to live their lives “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace…” Let me suggest that “the bond of peace” is not some kind of “live and let live” or a “you do your thing and I will do mine” morality, but rather a bond that frees us from fighting with one another and wrangling over the petty stuff so that we may hear the Word and see the Word in one another, maturing in the hope of our call--“one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.”

Jesus says to the vile tax collector, Matthew: “Follow me.” Matthew gets up and follows Christ. He follows Christ to the desert, the sea, the houses of prostitutes, dinner with Roman officials, to the markets, to the Garden, and eventually, to his own cross. Grace is given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Some will be graced to lives of quiet witness. Some to lives of noisy work. Some to lives of poverty and sickness and others to lives of wealth and health. And because God loves us all and each differently, we will all be made worthy according to our gifts. Some will be teachers and some preachers and some prophets and others will be fathers, mothers, and others still will be eunuchs for the kingdom of God. But first we are called as sinners to lives of repentance, graced with a longing for perfection in Christ.

And because he died for us, we must give to one another mercy and expect from one another mercy alone.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:02 PM

    Will there eventually be an audio to this? Or have you given up on recording homilies completely? Or was the recording lost?