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Dawna's Blog for 18th August

Our readings this week have some difficult edges and angles for us to investigate and ponder.  Particularly, our gospel reading as Jesus says that he has come to bring division and fire and scolds those who are listening for not being able to interpret the present time.  This angry retort from Jesus is his response to those who have been masquerading their political agenda as earnest questions of faith.  Their quest is not to know the living God, but to discredit the authority and power Jesus has been given.  To these false questions, Jesus responds with hostility and we’re caught a bit off guard, because we didn’t realize the conversation had taken a radically different direction.  One minute Jesus is talking about letting our light shine and the next minute he’s uttering curses.  The curse is firmly placed on the shoulders of those who have intentionally created burdens for others to bear, and, frighteningly, it is also for those of us who put our heads down and ignore the burdens others have been given.  The sword Jesus references comes to divide us from apathy, from fear, from bigotry, prejudice and toward others and also toward ourselves.  That sharp blade terrifies but also strangely comforts as we begin to imagine a different reality where we are not defined by our fears and failures nor do we need to define others by theirs.  Professor and poet, Ross Gay, writes in his article Some Thoughts on Mercy (https://thesunmagazine.org/issues/451/some-thoughts-on-mercy) about his own wrestling with prejudice and fear and how those negating realities can make phantoms of others and also make us phantoms to ourselves.  In exploring the topic and his need to write about it he says:

“It seems to me that part of my reason for writing this — for revealing my own fear and sorrow, my own paranoia and self-incrimination and shame — is to say, Look how I’ve been made by this. To have, perhaps, mercy on myself. When we have mercy, deep and abiding change might happen. The corrupt imagination might become visible. Inequalities might become visible. Violence might become visible. Terror might become visible. And the things we’ve been doing to each other, despite the fact that we don’t want to do such things to each other, might become visible.

“If we don’t, we will all remain phantoms — and, as it turns out, it’s hard for phantoms to care for one another, let alone love one another. And it’s easy for phantoms to hurt one another.”

In this context, we see that Jesus is the incarnation of God’s love, a love that demonstrates again and again that the mercy of God is hard core and will intrude and divide when we make phantoms of self and others.  When we, with quiet boldness, recite or sing or remember the Kyrie we align ourselves with the radical, unabashed and life-saving mercy of God, and commit ourselves to working in and on behalf of that mercy.  We will, no doubt, strain some muscles we didn’t know we had along the way, but we will also dare to turn loose of those clinched, life destroying fears and in doing so, reclaim some of that fullness of God in which we were created.    

Professor Ross Gay has written a wonderful piece on the dimensions of mercy for self and other in his piece