Stewardship of Mercy

An Everyday Stewardship Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

miracle-exorcism-of-daughter-of-the-canaanite-woman

The Jubilee Year of Mercy is now in the history books and looking back I wonder if I have been changed at all by the observance. Certainly the focus on mercy wasn’t all about God’s mercy toward me? Yes, I focused on my sin and the need for God’s forgiveness and grace, but hopefully that changed how I live my life and how I offer mercy to others.

The mercy we receive from God is not something we are to keep bottled up or hidden from others. Jesus taught us to treat others the way we would like to be treated and to love everyone, even our enemies. When Jesus healed the Canaanite woman I wonder what she did next. I would hope she in turn offered mercy and healing to others. Of course, I know she was imperfect just like me so I am sure in no time she was back to needing the mercy of Jesus. Her demon was gone, but there is always a new evil around every corner.

However, the fact that we are a broken people always in need of mercy does not lessen the command for us to offer mercy. Mercy is a gift like so many others that God lavishes on us with great generosity. We are called to cultivate this and share it with others as well. If we cannot do that then what was the real effect of God’s mercy in our lives? If we do not allow God to change us into more generous stewards ready to offer mercy and love to all, then perhaps we are fooling ourselves that we are true disciples of Jesus at all.

 

Live the Image

Unless we look at a person and see the beauty there is in this person, we can contribute nothing to him. One does not help a person by discerning what is wrong, what is ugly, what is distorted. Christ looked at everyone he met, at the prostitute, at the thief, and saw the beauty hidden there. Perhaps it was distorted, perhaps damaged, but it was beauty none the less, and what he did was to call out this beauty.” – Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

We are created in the image of God, the beauty of which Metropolitan Anthony speaks.  We’ve heard that over and over, maybe to the point that we don’t take it as seriously as we should – but truly believing this impacts how we live.  The problem, however, is not necessarily that we don’t believe it, but that we forget it.

We forget it when someone continually wrongs us (or someone we love) and we harbor hatred in our heart. We forget it when we take pleasure in another’s misfortunes when we believe they deserve it.  We forget it when we look down on the poor because of choices they’ve made.  We forget it when we desire vengeance for those who have committed horrible crimes.  We forget it when we gossip.

Attempting to see the beauty in someone who has wronged us never justifies their bad behavior, but it does change us.  Seeing people as Christ saw others helps us to live the image in which we were created and it produces the kind of compassion needed to change the world.

After Steve Stephens broadcast his murder of Robert Godwin on Facebook, Godwin’s daughter, Tonya Godwin-Baines said this of Stephens:  “Each one of us forgives the killer, the murderer. We want to wrap our arms around him.”

This is breathtaking faith.  “Wrap our arms around him”? Would that we all could do that, but I’m not sure I’m there yet.  What I do know is that the only way someone could express that sentiment is because they refuse to forget that even the greatest of sinners are beautifully made in the image of God.