7th Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 20, 2022


Ring!   Thank you for calling heaven!

For Latin press 1,  For English Press 2, for Spanish press 3 for all other languages, press 4.

            You have selected English.  Please select from one of the following options:   Press 1 for a request, Press 2 to give thanks, Press 3 for register a complaint, and Press 4 for all other inquiries.

            I’m sorry.  All of our Angels and Saints are busy helping other sinners right now.  However, your prayer is important to us and will be answered in the order it was received.  Please stay on the line.

            If you would like to speak to God the Father, press1, for God the Son, press 2, for God the Holy Spirit, press 2.   If you would like to hear King David sing a Psalm, while you’re holding, press 4.

            To find a loved one that has been assigned to heaven, press 5, then enter his or her social insurance number followed by the pound sign.  If we cannot locate that individual, please hang up and dial 666 for further information.

            For information on how to get to Heaven, please enter J-O-H-N followed by the numbers 3- 16.

            For answers to nagging questions about dinosaurs, the age of the earth, life on other planets, and what a Jesuit is really thinking, please wait until you arrive.

            Our records show that you have already prayed today.   So please hang up and try again tomorrow.   Our office is now closed for the weekend to observe a religious holiday.

            Please pray again on Monday after 9 am.  If you’re calling after hours and need emergency assistance, please contact your local pastor.   Thank you and have a heavenly day!

It’s those kind of voice messaging systems that tempt many of us to say, “Lord have mercy!”  I can’t take it any more!   Deliver me, Jesus!  If we’re really exasperated, we may even throw up our hands in utter despair.

Though I’d be the first to admit that such voice messaging systems are sometimes, a source of irritation in my own life, they do serve one often overlooked purpose:  They get us to practice being merciful when we finally get to talk to a living, breathing person on the other end!

In the Bible,  the concept of mercy is widely demonstrated, with three different Hebrew words used for mercy in the Old Testament and three Greek words for mercy being used in the New Testament, which are similar, in meaning, to their Hebrew counterparts.

The first kind of mercy is closer to what we’d describe in English as ‘loving-kindness.’  It’s the kind of mercy found between two individuals who’ve made a long-term commitment to one another and who depend on one another.   It’s the kind of mercy that husbands and wives demonstrate to one another when one of them needs to be forgiven by the other for some hurtful action.   It’s the kind of mercy that a spouse uses to overlook the particular flaws of their partner, out of love for the entirety of their person.   It’s also the kind of mercy that two friends exhibit toward one another when one of them is hurting or suffering.

The second kind of mercy is the kind that comes closer to the English meaning of ‘grace or favor.’  It’s the kind of mercy that depends solely on the good will and generosity of the giver.   It isn’t a mutual give and take mercy.  It flows only one way and may not be long-lasting.  It the kind of mercy that’s the origin of the expression, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  It’s the kind of mercy we have when we forgive someone who’s sinned against us or who has taken advantage of societal good-will.

The third kind of mercy, however, is the type that concerns us today.  It’s the type that Jesus describes in our gospel story when he says, “Love your enemies.  Do good to those who hate you.  Bless those who curse you.  If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from anyone who takes away your coat, do not withhold even your shirt.”  (Luke 6: 27b-29)

The kind of mercy Jesus is speaking about here, is termed,  ‘womb-love.’

It’s the  kind of mercy a parent has for their child and the kind of mercy siblings, who have shared a womb, demonstrate to each other.   For all of us, it’s the mercy that we must feel at the center of our being, for all of God’s children— since all of us share a common womb, a common origin and will inherit a common destiny.   St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians teaches us,  “Just as we have borne the image of the one of dust (that is, Adam), we will also bear the image of the one of heaven.”  (1 Cor 15: 49)

It’s this kind of womb-love, this kind of mercy, that our Heavenly Father showed us in sending his son Jesus, to live among us, to take our sins upon himself, to suffer persecution and misunderstanding, and ultimately, to die a violent death so that our sins might be forgiven.  Jesus is the greatest example then, of womb-love.   He became the living embodiment of God’s mercy, so that all of us would have a tangible sign of what it means to be merciful and to endure and give of ourselves beyond ordinary human expectations, to every single person on earth.  We might be tempted, at this point, to rationalize that Jesus could be this merciful because he was sinless, but we, who are sinners, shouldn’t be expected to live up to this high moral standard.

Our first reading though, from the first book of Samuel, shatters such rationalizations to pieces.    In the passage we heard proclaimed today,  David, who was prophesied to become the next king of Israel, is found on the lam, hiding out in the desert from the current king Saul, who saw David as a threat to his continued reign.  If King Saul had had the opportunity, he would have most surely killed David in his tracks.  Yet, the tables are turned in today’s passage.

It’s David who’s been given the opportunity to kill King Saul in his sleep, knowing full well that by doing so,  he would have ended the great threat against his own life.   And yet, David chooses not to kill King Saul out of womb-love, out of mercy, for the King.  He’s quick to point this out to King Saul later that night when he announces, “The Lord gave you into my hand today, but I would not raise my hand against the Lord’s anointed.

As your life was precious today in my sight, so may my life be precious in the sight of the Lord, and may he rescue me for all tribulation.”  These words have a profound impact on King Saul who acknowledges David’s mercy toward him and recognizes the future success that David will have, because of his fidelity to the Lord.

David made the profound connection which the Lord is asking of each one of us, in our gospel for today.   David wasn’t perfect, but he was able to be merciful because he understood that King Saul’s life was precious, that he’d been anointed, and that David had no right to take that precious life and anointing away.

Each of us is being challenged, like David was, to look at those in our lives — our children grandchildren, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, teachers and even strangers – as persons in need of mercy, in need of womb-love from us, when sometimes, that’s the last thing we’d like to hand out.   Womb-love doesn’t mean letting the other person do as they please, though.  It means safeguarding the other’s ability to thrive, grow, and develop into the person God created them to be.  Sometimes, th e most merciful thing we can do for someone, is to get them to confront their dark side, their sinfulness, their lack of womb-love for other people, so that they can draw closer to Gods’ true plan for their lives.   When we act in this manner, we may be surprised at the transformation we may observe in the other, as I’m sure David was surprised at the words of blessing that came forth from King Saul’s mouth when he was told his life had been spared.   David’s womb-love made Saul confront his own sinfulness.  Because of it, David would no longer have to hide out in the desert.   He’d no longer be thought of as the enemy of the King.  Now, David would be like flesh and blood to the King.    And all this came about because of the womb-love David poured out upon King Saul.  So the next time you hear a voice messaging system pick up, think of David and respond with womb-love to those on the receiving end.


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