Homily for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year C)

 

My mother and I lived with her parents while I was growing up. My mother and grandmother were both very strong women and although similar in so many ways, polar opposites when it came to showing compassion. My mother had been hurt many times. An unwed mother, who finally married a man because everyone told her she needed a husband and I needed a father. Thankfully that ended after 6 months, but not before she was abused.

My grandmother, equally, had many things happen that shaped her life, one being a tubal pregnancy in 1952 which left her not able to have any more children.

I say they were very much alike because they both loved with their whole heart. They were very much different because my mother wasn’t able to show love to just anyone, it took time and patience to get inside the wall she had built around herself. While my grandmother showed compassion and love to everyone.  No one was unwelcome in our home, there was always plenty of food at meal time, and yes, even though they may be hand me downs, there were spare clothes if anyone needed them.

In both our first reading and in the Gospel today we hear about the only son of a widow that dies. And we see and hear the anguish of their broken hearts.  We have discussed in the past that widows with no sons really had no standing in the community.  They were at the mercy of the townspeople. They for the most part couldn’t own property and what little they had they got from begging.

God showed mercy to the widow Elijah was staying with and when he prayed literally prostrate over the body, God revived the boy, and Elijah was able to give him back to his mother.

Jesus showed mercy and revived the widow’s son and gave him back to his mother.

 

We hear the word mercy quite often and we tend to use it freely. But what does it mean?

 

The dictionary definition of mercy says:

1.    Compassion or forbearance shown to an offender or one who is subject to you.

2.    A blessing that is an act of divine favor or compassion

3.    Compassionate treatment of those in distress.

Each of us has received mercy from the hand of God by the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. I know we are able to name many other times in our lives where we have freely received mercy, again from God and from someone in our lives. 

We are blessed to have the Sacraments. Baptism, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, the Eucharist, these are all rivers of mercy, love and compassion.  Each time we celebrate the Eucharist we are giving thanks to God for that compassionate treatment in our distress, and to praise him for that undeserved mercy. We come to the table in our need, and we leave filled.

But we are not to stop there. That is not the end of it for us.  We are called, each of us, you, to take what we have been given and to give it away freely to everyone in need.  We come to the table in thanksgiving, are filled, and then sent out so we can distribute that mercy to others. To our bosses, our students, our employees, our workmates, our friends, our families, our neighbors, the strangers on the street.

 

St. Augustine said in his commentary of Psalm 58 of the Latin Vulgate:

“Lastly, considering that every type of good thing we may possess — either as gifts of nature, or through education or social relationships, or through the gifts of faith, hope, and charity, or moral goods such as justice, or fear of God — are nothing but [God's] gifts, [the Psalmist] concludes thus: "My God is my mercy."... Now, since none is better than You, none more powerful than You, and none is more generous in mercy than You from whom I received that I exist, from You I received [the grace] that I [can] be good.”

 

Who in your life needs mercy?

 

 

 

 

I remember the first time someone else took the blame for something I had done or rather failed to do.  I had been asked to clean out the fryers at the fast food restaurant I worked at.  Throughout my shift I kept finding other things to do. If you’ve ever had to clean out a fryer, you know that it is messy work and there isn’t really a way to do it without getting the oil on the floor and all over you. I skimmed them really good and cleaned up the area, but never actually broke them down and cleaned them.  The next day when I came in, I was asked why I didn’t get them done.  Sales weren’t high enough the night before to warrant them not being cleaned.   As I was about to make an excuse why I didn’t get them done, the shift supervisor from the night before jumped in and said it was his fault and that he had had me doing other things.

Today, we see this on a grander scale, literally a scale of life or death.  Because of God’s love for us, and the love Jesus has for us - not only as the Son of God – but as a fellow human being fully understanding the nature of what it means to be human, he accepts the punishment in our place.

And even more than that, he does it without complaining, without fighting back, without even looking at us to say with a look, “you should be here, not me.”

Today, we see what it means to love like God loves. We see the selfless example of Jesus being accused, beaten, tortured even, and crucified, without ever once raising his voice in self-defense, without raising his hand in anger or retribution.

Today, we can stand at the foot of the cross with tears in our eyes knowing that our guilt has been taken away, our sins removed, our hearts once again made right with God.

Today, we cry in sorrow for the death of an innocent victim. We cry because we know it should be us up there on that cross paying the price for our own sins.

Now we get the chance to go out and show that same kind of love and forgiveness, that same kind of mercy and acceptance to others. Jesus paid the price for our redemption – a price we could never pay ourselves. Now we have the opportunity and the obligation to pay it forward and to help others – not just by our words, but by our actions. By the way we live our daily lives, not just while gathered for Mass, but in our everyday mundane lives.

Do we just walk past a homeless person that asks for some spare change? Or do we stop and dig in our pockets and share what has been gifted to us?

Do we just blame the parents when we are standing in the grocery store line and the child is screaming at the top of her lungs? Or do we say a silent prayer for the parent or grandparent, because we honestly have no idea what is going on in their lives at that moment? 

How we treat and respond to each other, to strangers, to everyone is how we show that we know and understand the price Jesus paid for us today.

And saying that, I also have to say that I went back and told the store manager that it really was my fault that the fryers didn’t get cleaned, and I was honest with her as to why.  She thanked me for that and then explained the importance of why they need to be cleaned out the way we were to do it.

 

Today we are told the importance of why we should be taking care of those most in need, and being Jesus to them while seeing Jesus in them.