HOMILY WEEKDAY 15 05 – Year I
Living the Law of Love
(Ex 11:10-12:14; Ps 116; Mt 12:1-8)
A nervous priest was performing a wedding ceremony, and accidently began the nuptial blessing with the words, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do!”
The critical words uttered by Jesus in the gospel today, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” invite us to ask ourselves an important question – are we in love with the Law, or living the law of Love? What is most important in our lives – mercy and love, or law, rules and regulations?
We are told it is the Pharisees who make an issue of the hungry disciples plucking heads of grain to eat, thus breaking the Sabbath Law. That is not surprising, as they were the group who truly believed if they kept the law perfectly, then the glory of God that had left the first temple and did not return to the second temple, would then come back. Naturally, they would be concerned at this seemingly blatant violation of the rules of the Jewish religion.
The way Jesus responds, is very interesting – that King David did essentially the same thing, break the Law of ritual purity. David knows he was made king by God’s mysterious workings, and thus stands in the place of the King. If God was here, David is telling the Pharisees, this is what God would do.
Then Jesus adds, “There is something greater than the temple here.” What he is saying is God is here – the true Lamb of God – whose sacrifice reveals a God who is love, mercy, forgiveness, unconditional love and total non-violence. That is the same God who was at work in the lives of their ancestors in Egypt through an innocent lamb, the Passover Lamb, recounted in the first reading.
In the gospel, the new Passover Lamb whose blood and flesh would take away the sin of the world, is at work in surprising ways – teaching the legalistic Pharisees so focused on blind obedience to rules and ritual purity, that mercy and compassion were much more important.
In that first reading from Exodus, the Israelites were to choose a lamb and keep it until the 14thof the month. The children in the family would come to love that lamb, adding to the harsh reality of its slaughter as a sacrifice whose blood and flesh would save the Israelites from death. The fact that it becomes sacred food that must all be eaten, is very much like an Indigenous ceremonial feast, in which all the food must also be eaten, taken home, burnt or placed outside in a suitable place.
The meal was a shepherd’s meal, to be eaten hastily, standing up and dressed for action – which is why we receive communion in a procession line today. The Eucharist is also a shepherd’s meal, a Passover Meal, a pilgrim’s meal, for we are also on a journey to our final liberation and fulfillment.
The deep message of the gospel, from the new Paschal Lamb who revealed to us on the cross who our God truly is – humility, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, unconditional love and total non-violence, is that we are to also live by the new Law of mercy, of love, of forgiveness, of putting relationships first, of seeking reconciliation above all else.
In that spirit, Ron Rolheiser OMI points out that dealing with the present reality of the legacy of the residential schools in this country, the complex situations of litigation, the need for healing and reconciliation is not a burden, but privileged ministry for us today. Involvement in the Returning To Spirit process would be a great way to fulfill that mandate of loving as Jesus loved, of forgiving as he did, of seeking reconciliation as he wants – of living mercy, not sacrifice.
The Eucharist is a celebration of faith in the forgiving love of God made present for us through Word and sacrament. It is our way of living out Psalm 116 – we also lift the cup of salvation, and call on the name of the Lord.
So, as we leave this place of worship, let us make our own homes places of healing and learning, of mercy and reconciliation, where we live by the law of love.