The Presence of Mercy

First off, I would be entirely remiss to fail in wishing a very restful and happy Mother’s Day to all who are called as mothers of any kind. Women offer the Church, and indeed the world, a grace and beauty, a strength with gentleness that is worthy of reflection in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. A mother’s intercession resonates for me, especially as we celebrate the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in this month of May, and her role in the story of our salvation.

However, as today we recall the Ascension, there is something else upon which I want to focus. Many weeks, the second reading is sort of out of step with the first reading and Gospel, which are normally paired. Very often, I find the “epistle” to be the most inspiring of the scriptures we hear each week. In this case, though, it is not only inspiring, but really theologically relevant to the feast we observe today.

As the reading begins, we are told that as Christ ascends, he has entered, unlike any faith tradition or ritual worship, into the actual sanctuary of the Father – He is in the very presence of God offering himself on our behalf perpetually, though not repeatedly, to cleanse us of sin.

That, by way of summary, is the first of two paragraphs, and we ought to take a bit of a deep breath unpacking it. The short of it, though, is that Christ is himself the embodiment of mercy. Jesus, both God and man, in the presence of eternal, almighty God is a scene that echoes for us with the weight of Christmas and Easter. This portion of the Scripture explains how mercy becomes a possibility for humankind.

The next part is what I find more interesting, as it paints a picture of how we now stand in relation to God.

Because of who Jesus is and what he did (though he does it once eternally, not once in time – he is divine, after all), it says, “we have confidence of entrance.” Beyond this, we are offered instruction on the way we ought to proceed in prayer: approaching God in sincerity of heart, and clinging to faith because he, our God, is trustworthy. In a word, humility is the proper response, not fear.

This is the difference between sinful humanity before and after a personal, vital relationship with Jesus takes hold.

Those who come to God apart from His mercy made sure through   Baptism  do  so  as  though  trembling,   seeking undeserved goods from the One who offers all good things. We who have been “washed in pure water” (the purification of the water is what takes place when Jesus is baptized in the Jordan and that which we commemorate at the Easter Vigil) ought to draw near to God with knowledge of both our unworthiness and our forgiveness. We needn’t tremble, but, as an invited guest to a feast beyond our rank, come justified to receive choice blessings from the Author of Truth and Beauty.

This is the sense of the second song at Communion this week, so perhaps you will hearken back to that moment this week, having received the Lord sacramentally, you can become aware of his welcome, his embrace, the eyes of Divine Love upon you, and in your own spirit you bow in the presence of such glories.



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