Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

ANOINTED WITH MERCY

By Fr. Chris Valka, CSB

Our Gospel this Sunday picks up from last Sunday’s reading. After Jesus reads the Scroll of the Prophet Isaiah about the one who God has anointed to bring good news to the poor, proclaim liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and proclaim a year of the Lord’s favour; Jesus announces that this scripture has been fulfilled in their hearing!

However, people did not get angry simply because Jesus claimed he was the one anointed – to this they just questioned how he could be so if he was the Son of Joseph? How could the anointed be someone known so well to them?

Rather, what really set them off in a fury was the idea that the Lord’s favour could extend to those outside Israel!

In his recent book, Mercy, Walter Kasper writes, “Mercy is the revelation of God’s transcendence over everything mortal and over everything humanly calculable. That the most important expression in the Bible for understanding mercy is Hesed, which means unmerited loving kindness, friendliness, favor, and also divine grace and mercy. It means God’s free and gracious turning toward the human person with care. It concerns the concept of relationship. It is not just a single action, but an ongoing attitude and posture.”

Herein lies the problem (at least part of it): many of the Hebrews were so busy trying to keep the law, that they forgot why the law was established in first place – that had forgotten about the importance of the relationship with God.

We have a similar problem today, for so many of us have great respect for the person/humanity of Jesus without fully comprehending his divinity. When this happens, the qualities of Jesus are limited by his humanity. His mercy, love, extravagance loose their transcendence and become just outside of our own imaginations.

However, we are called to something so much greater. As we hear in Jeremiah: we have been known and appointed while we were in womb! What we are capable of is not as simple as what we can achieve; rather it is about how we see ourselves in relationship to the Divine – in God and in one another.

The result is a profound humility that will allow us to see God in all people and in all circumstances.

About the Image:  It is a close up of the Rose Window at St. Basil’s Church.