While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Mercy and I have always have always had an interesting relationship. I can get behind the idea of grace; I am proud to be a United Methodist, one of the “grace people”. The idea of God raining down His grace upon creation in an endless shower of love is a cornerstone of my belief system.
However, mercy, for the longest time, came to be an example of The Fall. Grace showcases the radical love of God, but for me, mercy showcased the radical failures of man. It wasn’t until later that I came to see mercy for what it is: a continuation of the amazing love of God.
During the Baptismal Covenant, the pastor recites the Thanksgiving Over The Water, which is their act of blessing the water. During this liturgy, we recount the examples of God leading the Chosen People across Egypt and into the Promised Land. It is at that point that the congregation responds in unison with:
Sing to the Lord, all the earth
Tell of God’s mercy each day.
We receive God’s mercy in the form of forgiveness of our sins; it is that act of mercy that brings us into a right relationship with God, but God is greater than just forgiveness. God’s mercy exists beyond the walls of the church and beyond the confines of the soul and can be found out in the world. The call of a Christian is to be an extension of that mercy, to be a conduit that connects people to one another and God.
Today is the Feast Day of Archbishop Oscar Romero, a clergy person who was called to preach against the violence and radical inequality that had a grip on his homeland of El Salvador. Romero preached the Gospel and he ignited the hearts of the Salvadorian people: not to violence, but to radical love. Romero strove to tell everyone of God’s mercy each day.
It was during the act of communion, that Great Retelling of God’s Mercy, the point in a worship service where we, as a community of worshipers, remember God’s ultimate act of mercy by thinning the veil of this world and the Heavenly world, that hatred burst in and Archbishop Romero was assassinated. The man who was murdered for preaching mercy died while remembering the ultimate murder committed in response to preaching mercy.
Although the world may not like it, although the powers of the world quake in fear and turn violent at its mentioning, let us boldly and always sing to the Lord and tell of God’s mercy each day.