Rejection or Mercy?

 Jesus said to them, “ Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. (Matthew 21:42-43)

The text quoted above is included in the Mass reading for Mercy Sunday. The context is not quoted but we can read it here and do a bit of thinking on the nature of mercy. We all need divine mercy but divine mercy is an arbitrary thing. If it was something we can deserve because then it would not be mercy but a reward. Strange thing is  this mercy of God, so misunderstood as to result incomprehensible for some.

For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.  For the scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.’ So then he has mercy on whomsoever he chooses, and he hardens the heart of whomsoever he chooses. (Romans 9: 15-18)

Then see the context of Matthew 21 quoted partially above:

In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither at once?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea”, it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’ (Matthew 21:18-22)

The fruitless tree did not satisfy Jesus hunger, this is the same Jesus that spent forty days fasting in the desert. Couldn’t he look for another tree that had some fruit? Couldn’t he make the fruitless tree produce something before mercilessly cursing it? And what does it have to do with lifting mountains up and throw them to the sea? The disciples heard a similar illustration only a few hours before…

 ‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes! (Matthew 18: 6-7)

Hunger in the heart of God

The figure of the fig tree is often used to signify the Church. In those days, Jesus was inspecting the Temple cleverly disguised as a common Jew, a man from Nazareth unexpectedly appearing before the people who were hungry for truth but received nothing but rules, regulations, and merciless admonitions from their clergy. They received nothing to satisfy their spiritual hunger.

When Jesus approached the fig tree, he was creating a representation, a living parable. God comes to his people, to his Church hungry for the love his Sacred Heart feels. But that fig tree gives nothing that can sustain the divine hungry traveler passing by. It is a tree growing in vain, a tree with no purpose other than to grow green and look good.

A Church that does not feed the cravings of the Sacred Heart with intense love is fruitless. Its membership has ceased to be the salt of the earth (symbolized by the mountain) and the Cross has become a heavy millstone driving them to the depths of the sea where the enemies of God reside.

Today, as a main part of the Church is busy trying to look good with the world, that very same world begins to disintegrate. It no longer expects salvation, it no longer desires to be called to God’s heart. A world hostile to God cannot claim to love Him and a Church acquiescing to that kind of world can only expect a swift immersion into the depths with a millstone for a necktie.

That woman from Syria

Mark 7 opens with the theme of faithfulness.

‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, “You honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.” (Mark 7: 5-7)

But then the chapter veers into the story of the Syrophoenician woman’s faith. Pay attention to the most minute details of the story because it is a story of  grace, undeserved kindness in action.

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, ‘Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ But she answered him, ‘Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’  Then he said to her, ‘For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.’ So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. (Mark 7: 24-29)

The poor woman endured to be called “a dog” but Mark seems to reveal here what the young girl was suffering from. “Dog” has a very definite connotation ever since the days of Sodom. Matthew tells the same story from a slightly different angle.

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, ‘Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’  She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:21-28)

The woman acknowledges Jesus Lordship and her own condition as an outsider. Anything she can obtain from Jesus will be pure mercy but she is offering something in return. She offers her admiration, her recognition of the Master’s power. That is the beginning of love and love is the only key that can unlock the immense treasure of mercy kept in the Sacred Heart.

We started with the rejection of the faithful woman by the disciples. The woman did not give up but for days followed Jesus’ entourage begging for her young daughter. Her perseverance paid off. Even after Jesus appeared at first to reject her as well.

Jesus knew what rejection was. Now he needed to teach the woman about mercy by experiencing it  after rejection.

Mercy is the opposite of rejection.

Sister Faustina was also rejected by many institutions before being accepted as a novice. Then her visions were rejected until a Polish Pope was elected, a Pope that knew her story up close.

Beware of rejecting what God puts before you. God mercies are often disguised to reveal our true intentions. Think of those who rejected Jesus and refused to be partners of God for eternity. Make room for Divine Mercy and its blessings.

Après la lettre — Invest a few minutes and read today’s post by David Warren: Morning light