14 April 2017

Small mercies and large

Good Friday 2017
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Dominic Priory, NOLA

Brothers, recall for a moment all the small mercies you have enjoyed through the years. I don't mean the really big stuff like sacramental absolution from mortal sin, or a last-minute reprieve from a serious accident or a deadly disease. I mean the truly smallish mercies; the everyday mercies of living and working with our fellow sinners – here at the priory, in the parish, at your ministry site, or just strolling around WalMart! What sort of lives would we lead if we couldn't give and receive mercy, especially the little mercies we need just to be up and moving around w/o constantly finding ourselves in furious arguments or fist-fights? 
What I'm calling small mercies flow unimpeded from the one Big Mercy we celebrate this afternoon – the death of Christ on the cross. Over the centuries, the Church has preached a consistent message about the consequences of his crucifixion – we are freed from sin and death and made heirs to His Kingdom. But there's one other element that doesn't get as much attention. Without Christ's death on the cross, mercy would have no eternal weight, no transcendental worth. Without his final proof of divine love at Golgotha, mercy would be mere courtesy, and our struggle would be with civility not holiness. But b/c he took on sin and healed our human nature, we are able to see well-beyond the limits of the here and now and look forward to a time and place where being merciful is no longer necessary b/c being sinful is no longer an option.

This Friday is a Good Friday b/c Christ's death on the cross elevates our human virtues, giving them immeasurable weight and worth. Because his suffering and death on the cross makes our return to the Father not only possible but all the more desirable. And because – left to ourselves – patience, forgiveness, even love would be impossible to empty of self-regard and self-preservation. Thanks to be God, that Christ's self-sacrifice on the cross is the still running-engine of mercy that gives life to the possibility of our conversion and the reality of our hope in the resurrection. While we commemorate the bloody cross this afternoon, we keep our hearts and minds clearly and fiercely focused on a divine horizon – the empty tomb and the promise of Easter morning.

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