Mal 3, 19-20 / 2Thess 3, 7-12 / Lk 21, 5-19
As his disciples we really should take Jesus’ foresight as something to rely on. We should agree with him: there’s something about following him that provokes strong opposition. And we might ask ourselves: does our discipleship bring about strong negative reaction? We might ask further: what is it that we do as disciples – or, at least, should do as disciples – that could possibly get the kind of reaction Jesus describes here? He is describing strong reactions from the politically powerful – from the rich and well off – and from established religious leaders too.
There’s a scene in Luke’s gospel that I think can help us answer those questions. It’s the scene where Jesus tells his disciples they must forgive those who wrong them. He says: if they wrong you seven times in one day and return to you seven times saying, “I am sorry,” you should forgive them. The disciples are stunned by Jesus’ teaching. It so contradicts not only the way things are but also the way they think things should be. So they ask Jesus to increase their faith. They think having a bigger faith, a faith able to overcome all doubts and hesitations; they think that will enable them to forgive as Jesus wants. But Jesus contradicts them. It’s not a matter of big faith. Size isn’t the issue here. He tells them if their faith were small, the size of a tiny mustard seed, they could do great things – fantastic things.
To become forgiving we must entrust ourselves – not to the bigness of our own faith – but to becoming little and weak, even in the eyes of those we forgive. It’s a matter of learning – humble learning: learning not to let the intended snubs, the little cruelties we practice on each other – not to let these get in the way of our root connection to each other. Doing this, we will grow to do greater things. We will grow – we will flourish into not letting bigger hurts get in the way of our root connection to each other.
For Jesus our becoming forgiving suits us. And this is where all the opposition will begin to stir, because for Jesus we have been made for mercy. We are hardwired for it. We have been made to receive God’s mercy and to give it further. Our life project is mercy. It is not the accumulation of things, nor their consumption. It is not our having but our letting go in love that connects us to each other – that connects us to all and everyone. That is God’s movement of mercy in our lives. To rely on God is to rely on that movement of loving mercy within us. Letting go is letting God act.
To the powerful intent on holding on to their having – we, disciples of Jesus, we say: we will rely on mercy. We will rely on the weakness and messiness of mercy. As citizens, we will not seal ourselves off from one another. We will not prefer partisan purity to our shared human root connection. As Church, we will not seek to become the club of the strong, holy and righteous. Rather, we will seek to be love among all – to be patient love, full of mercy and goodness, among all, for all.
As that Church we gather for Eucharist. We gather to let Jesus’ words take on new flesh in our lives. With him, through him and in him we say to our world: This is my body – for you. This is my life-blood – poured out for you. All this – all this for the forgiveness of sin.