Here’s an excerpt from a talk I gave last Lent on God’s mercy.
Yesterday we looked a bit at the God revealed to us in the Scriptures, in Jesus. What beauty! It’s the beauty that converted the Roman Empire – and now over 2 billion people — to the faith of a tiny band of Galileans who claimed the supreme and only Creator of the whole cosmos was born of a lowly virgin; grew up as a simple carpenter in a town with a population of roughly 300 people; became an itinerant preacher at the age of 30; preached a Kingdom of love and reconciliation and mercy; gathered around him a band of followers made up of ex-fishermen, former tax collectors and prostitutes, lepers, the blind, deaf, mute, deformed and possessed – referred to as the “refuse of the Empire” – and then, after only three years of preaching and working miracles, he was executed for treason under Pontius Pilate. Hanging naked and bloodied on a cross, he forgave his enemies and granted a thief first dibs on Paradise. He died and was buried in a borrowed grave. And who would have thought any more of him? But the lifeless corpse of this dead Jew, Jesus of Nazareth — these seemingly intoxicated evangelizing Christians proclaimed! — had been exalted to the highest heavens and had reconciled all of creation to the eternal God. This man had been made, they said, King of an eternal Empire of truth and life, holiness and grace, justice, love, and peace; and all creation would one day bow at the mere mention of his Name.
But in a world largely devoid of hope, this crazed News seemed better than good. It seemed impossible. But impossible is exactly what Jews believe God specializes in, and we, the spiritual Semites who still bear this same beautiful and hope-filled Gospel today, should – Ite, missa est! — offer our own increasingly despairing world a reason to sigh with relief: “Behind this world of death, beneath this world of pain, within this world of violence, beyond this world of sin beats the Heart of a God-made-flesh who invites us all to Pass-over with him from death to life, from pain to joy, from violence to peace and from sin to eternal redemption.
Come, let us be on our way to go out to all the world and tell the Good News!