He is not ashamed to call them brothers (Heb 2, 11)
Jesus remains faithful even if we are unfaithful, for he cannot deny himself.
He cannot be other than the faithful Witness of the irrevocability of God’s gifts and call. His testimony challenges and encourages us.
In the first place we are challenged: “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect,” which means we have to reflect the faithful Jesus and the Creator with an eternal love. Hence, our love cannot be “like a morning cloud, like the dew that early passes away.”
Nor should we water down the radical reading of the law and the prophets. The insistence on the indissolubility of marriage must not be taken lightly, as lightly as we take the teachings: “Offer no resistance to one who is evil”; “Do not swear at all”; “Do not be called ‘Teacher.’” The bar is set very high in the kingdom of God.
But stubborn and weak, we fail. Or perhaps we are adults who are too sophisticated, so that we end up distorting the Gospel to evade its demands. Still, we do not despair: God “is rich in mercy”; “he remembers that we are dust.”
But to let ourselves be encouraged by the one who “does not always rebuke nor nurses lasting anger” is to commit to not only not reneging on our promises, but also to being merciful. In the second place, then, we are urged: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” And our mercy, just like Jesus’, should reach out to the excluded like María and Rosa.
María has no other choice except to take birth-control pills; she no longer goes to communion. Rosa, who left her abusive husband, has for 15 years been living with Johnny, a faithful and loving partner; unable to go to Communion, the couple finally joins the Evangelical Church.
And with regard to people like Rosa, Pope Francis says that we should “welcome them along with their wounds.” It is necessary “to help them walk in faith and in the truth under the gaze of Christ the Good Shepherd, so that they can participate in Church life in an appropriate way” (cf. also Francis A. Quinn, bishop emeritus of Sacramento, California; Prayer Vigil).
Our challenge is to strive, yes, that God reigns absolutely in us. But as St. Vincent de Paul says, we have to begin with ourselves, for the trouble with us is that we take more care to have him reign in others than in ourselves (SV.FR II:97).
And it is worthwhile to ask ourselves before giving out rebukes: If Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters, despite our not being always faithful, would we have any reason to be ashamed of or shame the marginalized when we celebrate the Eucharist?
Lord, grant that we be firm and gentle at the same time.
Ross Reyes Dizon