- 1 Kgs 17:17-24
- Gal 1:11-14a, 15ac, 16a, 17, 19
- Lk 7:11-17
Theme: God is mercy.
Each evangelist has his own particular perspective. Luke, whose gospel we read from today, is very distinctive. Luke tells 18 parables that Matthew, Mark and John do not record – very important parables like the Prodigal Son, and the Good Samaritan, and the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. We know these stories only because Luke tells them to us. Luke also describes six miracles that none of the other evangelists record. Today’s miracle is one of them. Only Luke speaks of this woman and her son.
What is especially striking is this. It’s not just that Luke records 18 additional parables and 6 additional miracles. What is really striking is that the theme of those parables and miracles is clear and consistent. It is mercy. Notice the details in today’s story. The woman is a widow. This is her only son. And the key sentence is this. Luke says, “When the Lord saw her, he was moved with mercy toward her – with compassionate love – and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”
Luke is called the Evangelist of Mercy. Luke is saying to us: do you want to know what God is like? Look at Jesus. God reveals himself to us, in Jesus, as Mercy.
Pope Francis has asked us to focus on this theme in a special way this year. He has proclaimed this “The Year of Mercy”.
Two practical thoughts today:
- Today we celebrate jubilees. Interestingly, the only reference to jubilees in the New Testament is in Luke’s gospel. The jubilee text is very important for us Vincentians because St. Vincent chose it as the motto for our community. It is a text that speaks of mercy. In Luke’s gospel, right at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus is invited to speak in the synagogue in Nazareth. It’s as if Luke puts Jesus at the center of the stage and lifts up the curtain. Then Jesus introduces himself to us, telling us who he is:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
therefore he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor he has sent me:
to proclaim liberty to captives,
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a Jubilee Year from the Lord.”
Jesus is saying that his coming was the beginning of a Jubilee Year. Jubilees occurred every 50 years in ancient Israel. They were a time when God’s mercy was proclaimed: when slaves were freed, when debts were condoned, when harvests were shared, when sins were forgiven. They were a time of rejoicing and gratitude to God, the merciful giver of all good gifts.
So today, we join Fr. Mike Kennedy in his gratitude to God for 65 years of gifts, of God’s merciful love, Brother Carmen for 60 years, me for 50 years, Sy Peterka, Marty McGeough, Mike Callaghan, and Teddy Rios for 40 years.
Each of us jubilarians, I’m sure, wants to express his gratitude not only to God, but to our families, our friends and our community for so many gifts that they have given us. Not only has God been merciful to us, but many of you here today have shown us God’s compassionate love too.
That’s the first practical thought: gratitude in this jubilee year for God’s mercy and the mercy of others.
- This year we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first Vincentians in the United States. They came from Italy and landed in Baltimore. To us from the East, it seems strange that they were sent initially to St. Louis (to which they traveled largely on foot!), which at that time was the gateway to the unexplored west.
They were told first to set up a seminary. Actually, they would set up more than thirty! Three of these grew into thriving universities, universities that would welcome countless students from immigrant families. They were asked to have a special focus on the poor and to do the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. So, quickly they reached out to abandoned populations in the West and East and the North and South, and then to populations in the inner cities of St. Louis, Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore. In the 20th century, they sent over 300 priests and brothers to Panama, to China, and to numerous other foreign missions.
In all this, what they aimed to proclaim most of all is this: God is mercy. And living God’s life means, for all of us, doing the works of mercy, of compassionate love, at home, at work, in our cities, in our country, all over the world. They were preaching the jubilee message. It’s a simple one. It asks us: do you want to live God’s life? And it responds: let compassionate, merciful love pour out of you. When people see you, let them say: Something very special happens when she or he is with us. You can sense God’s love and mercy when they are present.
So, the second practical point is this: we are all called to be Mercy, to show God’s compassionate love through the works of mercy. It’s what being a follower of Jesus is all about.
This Eucharist is about thanksgiving. Today we jubilarians thank God for the gifts that the Lord has given to us and to so many others. But the Eucharist is also always about re-commitment. So today we all ask the Lord’s help and strength
- that we might sense God’s merciful love toward us first of all
- and that we might radiate God’s merciful love by doing the works of mercy: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, shelter the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, burying the dead …
All of us are called to be Mercy. My prayer today, with you, is that God’s merciful love will dwell in us wherever we are, and that, wherever we go, that merciful love, shown by us, will be a sign that God is alive in the world.