Fr Brendan Nolan
As St. Luke writes his Gospel, he focuses intensely on the total compassion of Christ. It is in St. Luke’s passion account that we read of Jesus, in Gethsemane, touching the ear of the High Priest’s servant and restoring it. Exclusive also to Luke is the magnanimous statement from the Cross, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do. Today as we hear the evangelist dispensing these words of Christ to all ages, heart again speaks to heart. It is the heart of Christ speaking to each of us. It is a singular, address from Christ to each person of every time and place; “ Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate, .. do not judge… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pardon and you will be pardoned, Give to those who ask, Pray for those who treat you badly” . It is the most evocative language every spoken, it carries within it the potential to move its listeners to tears of goodness and so reveal to each one of us the deeper more Godly self. It is eloquent beyond eloquence and has within it the grace to grant, not only to this congregation, but to all of civilisation; its foundation, its map and compass for the journey and its destination. For the individual, it remains immensely challenging and each time we hear it we are called into deep personal conversion which in turn relies on a deep personal relationship and ongoing encounter with Christ. He is the only one who could, not only utter this divine wisdom, but carry it to fruition in His Ministry, Death and Resurrection. Only closeness to Him can give us the grace required.
In the First Reading today we meet a very compassionate David. He is at war with King Saul and secretly comes upon him and his army in the wilderness of Ziph. God has put a deep sleep upon Saul and his army. David secretly steals Saul’s spear, David’s attendant Abishai, wants to kill the sleeping Saul with his own spear. David will not allow this to happen but leaves the spear stuck in the ground beside the sleeping Saul as evidence of his own mercy. He sees the King as God’s anointed and while this sense of reverence is David’s refinement and is laudable it is not magnanimous. It is not as Jesus reveals the Father in today’s Gospel narrative. David will go on to slaughter many enemies. Christ is totally different, his mercy knows not any limitation. Today’s Responsorial Psalm has the sense of it and is in prophecy of Christ “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he removes our sins”. We, as sisters and brothers of Christ are called to this ethical utmost, “Be ye compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate”. It is the grace of forgiveness which seems to present us with the mighty stumbling block. Very moving is The Merchant of Venice, “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle dew from heaven and it twice blesses him that gives and him that takes” as is Alexander Pope “to err is human, to forgive is divine”. Only closeness to Christ, in prayer, can bring us where we want to be; “Be Compassionate as your heavenly Father is compassionate” . The act of forgiveness or mercy is not contained around a single moment or gesture of mercy, rather it becomes twisted around one’s life journey and the same hurt has to be forgiven “Not seven times but seventy seven times seven” Matt 18: 22. It is in today’s second reading from First Corinthians that one single shaft of light brings everything together. Here St. Paul in his presentation of the First Adam and the Second Adam lets us see our two fold nature. In the First Adam we see our own humanity in all its frailty. Christ is the Second Adam. In Him we find our true humanity in the surround of the Light coming from the empty tomb and thus embraced brought to its true and intended reality. The closer our friendship is with Christ the more like Him we become and the more compassionate will be our demeanour in this world as we await our total completion with Him in the next. In the First Reading today, God sent sleep upon the camp of Saul to help David reach his moment of Goodness. For us it is not the gift of sleep which will bring us to perfection but the person of Jesus uplifting us to a different way of thinking away from the shadows and into His own wonderful Light.