Gen. 45:3-15; Ps. 103:1-13; 1 Cor. 15:21-26, 30-42; Lk. 6:27-38
Become, “Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (v. 36).
St. Paul continues confronting Corinthian doubt over the bodily resurrection. Some wanted to know the mechanics of the resurrection and what it meant to attain a “spiritual body” (v. 44).
In denying the physical resurrection some believed Baptism extended them the fullness of heaven’s blessings now, causing some to flirt with this world’s immorality, without hope of advancing toward God. Rejection of the bodily resurrection was thus another theology of glory apart from the cross.
Frustrated, Paul charges, “some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame” (v. 34), as though these Christians did not comprehend that all things for God are possible and mysterious.
Paul graphically described our coming into spiritual being and resurrection maturity, from birth, Baptism, death and new life, in Christ, we are a work in progress to be revealed on the Last Day.
In today’s Gospel Jesus descended from a mountain to a level place, and began blessings his nascent church with this: poverty, hunger, tears, and suffering the hatred of unbelievers. Following these seeming obtuse beatitudes, Jesus catalogues a number of imperatives for the sons of God, the crux of which is, “Become merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Mercy is the free currency of God expended according to his will. In this singular attribute we comprehend the full riches of heaven. But how is mercy’s largess and disposal possible for sinful men and women; well, it is not, except as we have a resurrection hope of, “becoming” unto the likeness of Christ.
Jesus predicates his disciples “becoming” on receiving the very blessings God invested in Him; poverty that looks to God for all security in thanks-giving, and access to his mercy; hunger, that does not serve lustful flesh, rather a greater participation in Christ’s flesh, the agent of merciful forgiveness toward brothers and sisters; tears that mourn over ignorant men about God’s work in Christ (Lk. 23:34); and suffering hatred of God’s reign that induces to pray for God’s merciful conversion (cf. Acts 7:60 & 9). By four beatitudes Jesus empowered his church for doing his coming imperatives, so to be children of the Most-High God like himself.
Beginning with Baptism, what we will be is only gradually revealed; and following Jesus to his cross, in poverty, hunger, tears, and the world’s mockery of a resurrection like his, our new-being is coming to fruition before the Father (v. 49).
Jesus exhorted on the Sermon on The Mount, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Just as with his Sermon on The Plain, the imperative is understood in the sense of future becoming. Our “perfection” as in accessing God’s “merciful nature” is mysterious, the hidden work of God in Christ.
Explaining the mystery of resurrection bodies, Paul takes a page from a parable of Jesus (Mk. 4:26-29), that describes our “becoming” as germinating death like the growth of a plant-seed. How God brings growth from death is a mystery of the Last Day and the angelic harvest, when our unique spiritual bodies will be on display to the praise of Christ and glory of the Father (1 Cor. 15:38, 42, 44).
Let us reflect on another mountain-plain encounter. Yhwh after his covenant with Israel, descended from Sinai to a level place upon a sapphire pavement, meeting Israel’s elders who beheld God face to face in Holy communion without harm (Ex. 24:6-11).
What do you suppose was discerned by the elders of Yhwh’s visage? As on the Mt. of Transfiguration, much would have been hidden. The fullness of God’s glory would remain so until its full manifestation in Jesus doing God’s mercy on the cross, source of our NT Holy meal with God for discerning his face.
Jesus, by Lazarus and the Rich Man, sometimes called “Dives” (Lk. 16:19 ff.) tells, not so much a parable as a self-analogy. Jesus is God’s Lazarus out of heaven sent to an earthly life of poverty, hunger, tears, and destitution on the cross, where there he “had no form … that we should look at him … as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised …” (Isa. 53:2b, 3c).
As Lazarus, Jesus was laid at Jerusalem’s gate, hungering for merciful crumbs from Israel’s abundant table; he cried for relief from his wounds. Israel, despised Lazarus at their gate, there Jesus abandoned by man and God was an abomination (Mt. 24:15; Mk. 13:14). Jesus handed over the Spirit, died, and was buried. Angels attended, Lazarus raising him to the “bosom of [father] Abraham”, cypher for God.
Jesus crucified is God’s doer of his merciful will; in the resurrection Jesus is the gate for those desiring, not pre-resurrection wealth in the world; rather his wounded flesh on tongues for mercy and a glory like his.
We die in germination all the day long for mercy’s sake that we might bring forth the love of Christ revealed from Joseph ben Israel in doing God’s word toward hateful brothers (Gen. 45:7). Amen.