God is faithful and merciful and just. Grace means that God blesses us with pure gift. Unlike the Pharisees in today’s Gospel, we know we cannot do enough to earn God’s favor. We already have God’s favor. We are created in the very image and likeness of God. God is the DNA of divine life flowing in us and through us.
First, a word about the Pharisees and Jesus’ observance of the Law. Jesus was a pious Jew who honored the Law and lived the Law. Jesus was always a Jew (He never became a Christian—wonder why?) and he honored the Torah but he went beyond the box. Jesus faults the Pharisees because they have go over and above the Law. They have devised numerous ritual purity practices to the observance of the Law. They burden the people when God wants to set them free. You might say they are Pharisees of the Strictest Observance. They represented a reform movement; however, their injunctions and practices soon came to dominate their practice and got in the way of true union with God.
There is always this tug and pull in organized religion. Churches appreciate and honor law-abiders and ignore or reject the mystics who experience God directly. Pharisaical practices may help build the necessary container for the first half of life but they stunt spiritual growth during the second half of life. The stuff of spirituality that has to fill the container has to go far beyond ritual and practices.
Often times, Pharisaical practice blinds us to the fact that God is merciful, faithful, and forgiving. This is not a carte blanche invitation to dissolute living. Rather, it is an invitation to enter into fuller, more personal union with the Living God. Isaiah reminds us:
Come now, let us set things right,
says the LORD:
Though your sins be like scarlet,
they may become white as snow;
Though they be crimson red,
they may become white as wool. (Is. 1)
What a transformation! Blood red crimson and scarlet to white wool and white snow. God lets us breathe and grow into union with God. God is eager and willing to bring us to the next grace-filled step in our spiritual journey.
I think Richard Rohr hammers it in this excerpt from today’s email:
Our DNA is divine, and the divine indwelling is never earned by any behavior or any ritual, but only recognized and realized (Romans 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-10) and fallen in love with. When you are ready, you will be both underwhelmed and overwhelmed at the boundless mystery of your own humanity. You will know you are standing under the same waterfall of mercy as everybody else and receiving an undeserved radical grace, which gets to the “root” of your own soul. (Rohr email, 2/27)
Knowing we are loved and forgiven enables us to be compassionate toward others. We are standing under the same grace-filled waterfall of Divine mercy. Compassion comes from a sense that we are one with all else and that we have been forgiven much.