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Sin and Mercy

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Yesterday we heard from the Prophet Jeremiah. The reading from the seventh chapter expressed the covenant in the traditional "conditional" words: Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people. (Jeremiah 7: 23b) Earlier in the same chapter, Jeremiah upbraided the people for their sins against the covenant; namely: Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with your neighbor; if you no longer oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place or follow after other gods to your own harm, only then will I let you continue to dwell in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors long ago and forever. (Jeremiah 7:5-7) Once again, we are reminded that our covenant with God is a matter of worshipping God and caring for the needs of those who are voiceless – the alien, the orphan and the widow. If Jeremiah were present in our midst today, his voice would be proclaiming the exact same message. We still worship the gods of commerce and business while ignoring the plight of the poor.

Today our reading comes from the Prophet Hosea. His words are the words of someone who is trying to woo back a lost love. I will heal their apostasy, I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from them. I will be like the dew for Israel. . . (Hosea 14:5-6a)

These two prophets are crucial to our understanding of the nature of God. First of all, we are reminded that God is God and there is no other. We cannot divide ourselves between the love of God and the love of the material things of this world. Our covenant with God demands that we worship God alone and that we care for those in our midst who suffer because they are voiceless in this world.

However, we are also reminded that God's love is not conditional. God's mercy is freely given to anyone who repents. Hopelessly in love with us, God needs only the hope that we are sincere in turning back to our love relationship, to our covenant relationship, established in Jesus, our Savior.

Ever since I first began to love the Scriptures, I have been impressed with this; namely, the Scriptures only speak of sin as a way to begin talking about God's love and mercy. Once we realize how much God desires to be one with us, we understand God's true nature. God is love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion personified. Remembering that we are created in God's image, we are called to live loves that are characterized by love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion.

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