Sunday Scriptures

The Challenging Side of God’s Mercy

by Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J.

“By your perseverance you will be saved … stand firm, lift your faces, raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”(Luke 21:19, 28)

These reminders are found in the final sentence of today’s Gospel passage and in the continuation of this chapter in Luke. They are words of both comfort and challenge as they speak a promise that can’t be earned or merited. As the Year of Mercy draws to a close we hear, in the teaching of Jesus, the challenging side of the extraordinary lavishness of God’s mercy.

In this week’s readings, Malachi addresses those who have grown lax and disillusioned as their trust and faith became lukewarm. Paul holds a mirror to community members who are living lackadaisical and judgmental lives – seeking their own comfort while minding everyone else’s business – pointing fingers at others, but not wanting to lift a finger to help another person.

Finally in the Gospel, Jesus doesn’t answer “when” the end of time is coming, but gives a vivid picture of events and personalities inducing a fear, terror and distress preceding its arrival.

As we hear these readings we may be tempted to think: “It must be just around the corner.”

Warnings and Reminders

Startling, too, is the pronouncement that true believers will be “put to the test.” The “end time” readings are strong warnings and urgent reminders. They remind each of us of who we are and Whose we are through our baptism. We contemplate who we’re called to be and Who we, as Christians, are called to follow and proclaim with our lives.

We need no reminders in this day that our followership, our discipleship is countercultural and when it is faithfully lived, places us at real risk of ridicule and rejection, or even persecution.

We don’t live in times when our faith or freedom to practice and proclaim it will be tested – or do we? Are we faithfully putting into our daily actions the teaching and belief that we are messengers and doers of God’s law of love in the world?

Believers and Disciples

Just last week we were reminded that we are a resurrection people – that we are the believers and disciples of today and that the coming of God’s reign – the time when all will be one – becomes real in our hands and through our words and actions. At our baptism, and at every baptism, we hear the question: “Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”

Do we truly understand? The good news is that we are not alone. We are the Body of Christ and we pray and trust that those saints and souls we’ve honored this month intercede for us still. We are able to stand firm and lift our heads because we are redeemed.

We are resurrection people and our “job” is to participate in God’s reign, by professing and living God’s word and trusting in the life God holds out to us.

We do this by becoming agents of change and unity rather than stagnation and division. We cannot afford to become lax or disillusioned about our personal responsibility and/or how each of us individually participates in this Body of Christ.

When we sincerely look at God’s mercy poured into our hearts we run the amazing grace of having the landscape of our minds and hearts changed and moved toward that unity and oneness. A day like today tells us God is with us.

We hear: “I, Myself, will give you a wisdom … Your redemption is at hand … by your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Our Time and God’s Time

Do we clearly understand? Do today’s readings remind us that our time is not God’s time? God is always coming and we are part of the whole human family, the Body of Christ. If so, we might see life’s questions differently. “Who is my neighbor?” Are we part of that Body of Christ – the human family – or merely neighbors in Middleburg, America or Jamaica, Queens, or Bay Ridge, Brooklyn?

If we could only speak or tell someone just once and never again, what would we say? What would we do if it was our last day(s)? How would we live that day?

So many parts of our world know devastating poverty, horrific violence, war and disregard for human dignity. The inequality, division, hatred and misuse of power have screamed so loud that the wisdom of God can seem inaudible to the human heart.

This past week, a new president was elected and a vision articulated for the future of the United States. May God’s mercy and healing help us to have the courage to heal, strengthen, serve, teach, learn and model God’s dream.

Let us see God’s face in one another and in all of creation. For those who persevere (remain steadfast), there is a promise that we will see the sun of justice – the Son of Justice – arise with healing and merciful rays.

May God bless us and help us.

Readings for 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Malachi 3: 19-20A

Psalm 98: 5-6, 7-8, 9

2 Thessalonians 3: 7-12

Luke 21: 5-19



Sister Karen Cavanagh, C.S.J., a trained spiritual director and retreat facilitator, is a pastoral associate/family minister at St. Nicholas of Tolentine parish, Jamaica.