Rs: Lk 1:69-75; Lk 11:5-13
“He promised to show mercy.”
Israel is the special possession of the LORD. Throughout history the LORD, the God of Israel, has been there for his chosen people to rescue, restore, and redeem his Beloved. Again and again the LORD has raised up a mighty savior, born of the house of his servant David. The LORD declared that King David was a man after God’s own heart, and even after David was unfaithful, the LORD continued to be faithful to David. Many holy prophets proclaimed the promise of the LORD that he would save us from the hands of our enemies, from all who hate us. Who would dare to hate those loved by the LORD? Indeed, the LORD promised to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant. Our father in faith, Abraham, heard the word of summons from the mouth of the LORD, and he left his ancestral homeland to be given a new land, flowing with milk and honey. Through the priest-king Melchisedek, our father Abraham offered the sacrifice of bread and wine to celebrate his liberation from the hands of his enemies. Indeed, he was free to worship the One True God without fear. Indeed, he was free to be holy and righteous in his sight all the days of his life. This is the freedom to which the Galatians were summoned by the preaching of Saint Paul; a freedom they seemed to so quickly reject. Indeed, the Lord Jesus promises freedom from all fear, because our Father in heaven provides the Holy Spirit whenever we ask him. Indeed, the LORD fulfills his promise in this Liturgy. Again and again the Father shows us his mercy, and fills us with the Holy Spirit, even as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.
Saint Paul violates the custom for greetings in his letter to the Galatians. Indeed, there is quite a difference between “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you!” and “O stupid Galatians!” The conventions of letter writing demand a gracious and courteous greeting, however Saint Paul has no time for conventions, and he gets right to the point of his letter with a question, “Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” What kind of deception could possibly turn your head around? What magic has created an illusion more startling than the vision of the love of God revealed in the Crucified Christ? Saint Paul knows that certain Jewish Converts have come among them demanding the imposition certain Jewish laws and customs. From the perspective of the Jewish Converts, no one can become Christian without first becoming Jewish. So Saint Paul asks, is your freedom in the Holy Spirit something that was gained by works of the law of from faith in the Gospel? Whence comes your freedom? Are you so stupid that you give up your freedom? Why would anyone want to depend upon his own observance of laws and customs to gain God’s love and approval? How can you depend upon external practices to effect an internal, spiritual change? Was your freedom in the Holy Spirit just a game? Were you just pretending to be free in Christ? Did you receive the Gospel in vain? Have you forced the hand of God to supply the Holy Spirit? Or have you forced the Lord Jesus to work might deeds among you by your works of the law? What about the gift of faith that came from hearing the gracious Good News of Christ, crucified for you, and raised up so that you could share eternal life with the Father and in the Holy Spirit? Such questions still demand a hearing even among us, who are not Galatians, but who so easily act like we are bewitched by new age nonsense and age old superstition.
The LORD is faithful to his promise because that’s the way he is, not because we force him to be kind and generous. We are so conditioned by our environment. We act out of our own self-interest, so often. We cannot be bothered with the needs of our friends because they inconvenience our families. At least this is the excuse we often use. Would not our children and our spouse be inspired by our generosity to our neighbor, even if it were a bit of an inconvenience? We cannot refuse our friends, even at midnight because we don’t want him to make a lot of noise and awaken all the neighbors. The next morning, everyone in the town would speak about our selfish behavior to our own shame. Such motivations are given to contrast with the faithful love and gracious mercy of the Father. The Lord Jesus reveals to us the undeserved and unmerited love and mercy of our Father in heaven. This he does in his parables and in his healing ministry. This he does definitively upon the cross. In the twisted and tortured body of the Lamb of God we behold his word of love made flesh and given up for us in sacrifice. If we ask for mercy, the Father gives us His Son. If we seek wisdom, the Father gives us the cross. If we knock at the door, the Father welcomes us home. Our generosity with our children or our friends is nothing in comparison with the generosity of the Father who gives us his only begotten Son. Our generosity with our children or our friends is nothing in comparison with the generosity of the Father who gives us the Holy Spirit whenever we ask. Why do we not ask for what he has promised? Are we afraid that he is not that generous? Are we afraid that he is like us?