Today’s gospel is from St. Luke’s “sermon on the plain” a parallel to St. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. In these sermons, or collections of Jesus’ sayings, the Lord summarizes how he wants his followers to live their lives. The beatitudes contained in both these collections of sayings set the standard for discipleship, service of God, and love of the neighbor.
Our scriptural reading today is the end of that sermon on the plain and it effectively concludes these important words of Jesus as to how the disciple or we put into practice the spirit of Jesus in our dealings with one another and, ultimately, how we deal with God.
“Be merciful as your Father is merciful,” captures the essence of our relationship with others and with God. The “measuring stick” of our mercy is how we treat each other. This is a bold statement that characterizes the way that I exercise mercy, forgiveness and compassion to others is a faint image of how God showers me with mercy and forgiveness.
The measuring here is squarely within the setting of our daily living in which we are opened by God’s love to love one another – in this case to be an instrument of mercy, forgiveness and compassion. The way we treat others is going to be the way that God treats us. And to be clear this does not mean that the priority in these interactions is ours; no, the measuring stick here is the way that God deals with us. Consider it for a moment – God’s love is always prior to, and a source of, our actions and that love provides us the invitation to love others the way God loves us; God’s love for us, then, is the very foundation of how we deal with one another.
The “good measure” Jesus speaks of here is a basket of grain which is tamped down and shaken so that more grain can be put into the basket. Even then the grain overflows the measuring basket and “is poured into your lap” as Jesus says. What a spectacular image that is. It assures us that God’s love is not stingy – even towards me who recognizes how I fail and how I miss the mark in relationship to others and to The Other. There’s an abundance in God’s love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion, and it keeps overflowing and covering me with its blessedness.
In so many ways that image of overflowing is the centerpiece of our Lenten season: the invitation in Lent is to continually discover the God who blesses over-flowingly, a Jesus who gives himself for our rescue, and the Holy Spirit who continues to inspire us with ways that help us to be “merciful as your Father is merciful.”
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