Once upon a time one day, the president of the Women’s Guild visits the ailing pastor. “Father,” she says, “I have good news and I have bad news.” “Give me the good news first, please,” the pastor responds. “The good news is that the Women’s Guild voted to send you a get-well card.” “Well,” he says, “What’s the bad news?” She blurts out, “The vote passed by 31-30.”
Lent, my brothers and sisters, is a time of mercy…God’s mercy. God gives us light and life everyday. According to the Jesuit Father, John Keenan, mercy is the “willingness to enter into the chaos of another.” The key word here is “willingness.” Are we willing to enter into mercy with others or do we send them screaming into the darkness?
A long time ago, the Israelites forget that they belong to God. They convince themselves that everything is all right because they can walk out of their homes and see the temple. Seven times a day in the courtyards of the temple prayer is chanted, whispered, shouted, mumbled and spoken. But also they think that since God resides with them, they can do anything they want. Sooner or later the temple is destroyed and the people go screaming into the darkness. That is, until the Persians conquer the land. That is when King Cyrus is merciful. He chooses to enter into their pain and restore the temple.
Lent, brothers and sisters, is a time of God’s mercy. AND, who-among-us-is-not-in-need-of-mercy, God’s mercy? Here is a simple example of how two people enter into each other’s chaos. It is a Sunday in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Business is slow for Claire Hudson who is a waitress in a burger joint working double shift. A couple comes into the restaurant, orders their meals. They eat and leave. What happens when Claire cleans up the table astounds her. Even though the bill is about $30.00, the couple leaves Claire a $36.00 tip with a note on the back of the receipt: “Today is my brother’s b-day. He would have been 36 today. Every year I go eat his favorite meal (hot dogs) and tip the waitress his age. Happy B-day Wes.”
For God so loves the world that God desires to enter into my chaos. Everyday grace is available and I continue to run away into the darkness. Would it help to know that God does not condemn me? Would I be better knowing that God loves me and waits patiently for me as I stand in the corner licking my wounds? God is mercy. I do not need a get-well card or a welcome committee. I just need holy desire. In the words of my grandmother, “There for the grace of God, go I.”
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.