AD 2016: The Election Year of Mercy

From the Facebook Feed of

Philippians 3:17-4:1
Luke 16:1-8

The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness.
Luke 16:8a

Do you find this passage confusing? It’s one that usually stumps me when it comes up in the lectionary. Here’s my go for this year: If this is a parable of the Kingdom, then the Rich Man is like God and the Steward is like a priest who has many sins of his own as he hears the confessions of the people. Mindful of his own sins, and of how it is that God is being merciful to him, he is also merciful to those who come to him; giving them light penances, and generous pardon.

Such mercy is also our own business. We name this and claim this in the Lord’s Prayer, right? Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Yes, the man in the parable is forgiving debts owed to his lord rather than to himself, but all sin is against God, is it not? “Against you, you alone have I sinned” says the Prophet David in Psalm 50. Even when we sin “at” another person, it is the icon of God, the presence of God himself that receives the offence. It is God against whom we always sin. This is a realistic view: the Church teaches we are all sinners. It also teaches that I can not judge the sins of my neighbor. Rather I must acknowledge that my sins are the cause of my destruction – and be merciful to my neighbor.

The Fathers say that he who covers another’s sin will find his own sins covered. He who uncovers another’s sins will find his own sins shouted from the housetops. That’s an interesting proposition in this election cycle, no? I have Facebooked in Anger about the sins of at least one candidate. I can imagine my readers coming up with all sorts of theological justifications for why we should broadcast the sins of XX or XY to the internet – as if the talk show hosts are not already doing that for us. But the reality is that all the candidates (especially the one you don’t like the most) are merely sinners like me. Dare I say, like you.

It also seems as though there are enough haters in this world without Christians adding to the pile. We – and they – fit into St Paul’s description of “many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ.”

I’m not good at this, mind you: I think one is just dragging us down to despotism yelling and screaming and the other is smiling whilst doing the same. Neither of them will do anything to stop the killing at home, abroad, or in utero. And, being sinners, both are part of the hedonistic and usurious culture of immodesty, sex, and greed that gives rise to that killing at home, abroad, and in utero. Truly, “their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” In other words they are garden variety sinners of today, modern in every way and needing salvation. And in a system built on lies, calumny, gossip, and rancor, it behooves a Christian to remember that we are only forgiven as we forgive. That is the bargain we make with the God who loves everyone – especially the candidate you like the least – with a love so great that it cost him his life.

Certainly: to point at real sin and name it sin is not to commit a sin. But: preach, brothers and sisters, don’t make it a political point. We are all sinners. Most of the things we allow in our society will damn people to hell. It is real love to say so and call people out of that, although it will gain us no popularity, nor political strength. It is in fact, a sin of our own if we fail to do so. But it is not charity – it is sinful, in fact – to make political hay and call it theology.

Author: Huw Raphael

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He is almost 59. He feeds the homeless as a parochial almoner and is studying to be a Roman Catholic Deacon. He is learning modern Israeli Hebrew and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.

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