Commenting on Isaiah 56:3-8, which talks about the inclusion of foreigners and eunuchs among God’s people, foreigners and eunuchs, that is, who keep the Sabbath and the covenant, Walter Brueggemann notes that:
the community welcomes members of any race or nation, any gender or social condition, so long as that person is defined by justice, mercy, and compassion, and not competition, achievement, production, or acquisition. (Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to a Culture of Now)
Quite so! Brueggemann is also right, it seems to me, to suggest that this ‘stance of generous inclusiveness’ is a direct contradiction of the Mosaic rules in Deuteronomy 23:1-8. Isaiah’s words are an example of prophetic critique of Israel’s ancient traditions, the kind of critique that Jesus was to continue some centuries later.
Belief in a God of infinite mercy and transforming love means [to] hold on to the belief that there is no place from which God is absent. […] God’s silence signifies not absence, but total engagement. God becomes silent in order to be with the silenced. It is an ultimate act of love to be able to enter the awful silence and suffer together.
This, once again, is from Barbara Glasson, A Spirituality of Survival: Enabling a Response to Trauma and Abuse.
Luke’s Gospel is … the most forgiving of all four Gospels. Every chance he gets, Luke has Jesus forgiving people, right up to the thief on the cross and the prayer for his persecutors. … Mercy and inclusivity – Jesus’ ministry to outcasts, to gentiles, to the poor – are emphasized a great deal in Luke. … Luke’s sacred text is also called the gospel of women. Far more than any other evangelist, Luke brings women into Jesus’ life and shows Jesus’ unique way of relating to women. He wants to make Jesus available to the forgotten and diminished, and women usually were.
And sadly still all too often are.
The quote is from Richard Rohr’s ‘Daily Meditations’.
Without passion there’s no compassion. In the same way there has to be eros in the mixture if there is to be agape as well.
Thus open this morning’s ‘Lent Daily Reflections’ by the World Community for Christian Meditation. Both those sentences ring entirely true to me. It is through suffering that we learn to be compassionate; and true love is always marked by agape and eros.
The reflections then refer to Luke 22:41-44:
[Jesus] withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and prayed. He said, ‘Father, if it’s your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, not my will but your will must be done.’ Then a heavenly angel appeared to him and strengthened him. He was in anguish and prayed even more earnestly. His sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.
I have quoted this passage from the fairly new Common English Bible. Anyway, the reflections conclude:
This is no fairy tale. For any mature person it resonates with our own experience. Aloneness, anguish, fear, physical symptoms, the unexpected angel of mercy. But at the heart of it is the love [Jesus] felt holding him, which empowered him to love those he did not even, at that instant, consciously know.
There are two insights in this that resonate deeply with me: that we are empowered to love by being held in/by love ourselves, and that it is particularly in those experiences of intense suffering that we meet the unexpected angel of mercy.