Reflecting on Mark 13: 33-37
Advent begins next week, and with it comes a new gospel. This is the last we will hear from Matthew―except, always, on Epiphany, since he is the only evangelist who knows the story of the Magi―until we return to him in December of 2016.
Before we turn the page to Mark’s gospel, then, it’s good to remember what Jesus tells us, over and over again, in Matthew’s brilliant gospel. It’s really just one word: mercy.
Go and learn the meaning of this: I desire mercy, not sacrifice. This is what he tells the learned Pharisees, shocked that Jesus has called a tax collector (Matthew)to be one of the Twelve, and is even now having dinner at his house (9:13)!
This is a bit like a professor telling a veterinarian student, “Go and learn the meaning of the word cat”. It’s deeply insulting to the scripture-quoting Pharisees, because Jesus is quoting the famous passage from Hosea 6:6.They have known that text from their youth, yet here is Jesus telling them to go learn it again.
Pope Francis has said about his papacy, “I think this is a time of mercy.” And about the gospels: “The Lord’s most powerful message is mercy.” In fact, his first major book as Pope has just been published, with this beautiful title: The Church of Mercy.
But if it’s all about mercy, what, then, are we to make of the God who rescues and heals the lost and scattered, but destroys the “sleek and strong”? We hope that we will be the sheep who inherit the kingdom of heaven, but where is the mercy for those goats that God will cast into eternal fire?
Maybe Matthew’s final message to us this year is this: Christ the King will be the judge. And he will judge us on how merciful we were.
In what ways have you shown mercy this year?