The Triumph of Scandalous Love
When Pope Francis visited the United States, addressing the crowds at the Festival of Families in Philadelphia, he told the story of a child who asked him a question. “What did God do before God created the world?” the child wanted to know. The Pope admitted that this was a difficult question for him to answer. And then he said, “I told him what I’m saying now to you. Before creating the world, God loved, because God is love.” Today, as we celebrate Easter, I want to think of Easter as the triumph of God’s love. If any of us wanted to know what God’s love is like, the cross and the empty tomb tell us the story.
I would like to reflect on Easter as the triumph of love. I am going to do this in three points:
Love Shown in Mercy. In his book, “The Name of God is Mercy,” Pope Francis tells the story of a Capuchin priest who came to him seeking help. The priest said, “I always have so many people at the confessional, people of all walks of life, some humble and some less humble, but many priests too…. I forgive a lot and sometimes, I have doubts. I wonder if I have forgiven too much.” The Pope then asked the priest what he did when he had these doubts. The priest replied, “I go to our chapel and stand in front of the tabernacle and say to Jesus, “Lord, forgive me if I have forgiven too much. But you are the one who gave me this bad example.” It is true! It is the mercy of God that shows us the extent of God’s love. There is not one passage in the gospels that someone can highlight and suggest that there a is limit to God’s mercy. In fact, the extent of mercy makes God look scandalous. The lost son is freely accepted back into the house. Neither is he asked to submit an account nor is he subjected to any conditions. The hope, (its only a hope not an assurance), is that the mercy shown by the father will be transformative for the son. Easter is a celebration of this kind of mercy. Jesus died for us without any assurance that humanity would transform itself. In fact, who among us can claim that we have not sinned even after we have received God’s mercy! Yet, God continues to make God’s mercy freely available to us. Easter is the celebration of this kind of mercy and love.
Easter: A Triumph of Love. For those of us who are following the presidential election campaign, we know that elections are all about winning. However, as candidates try to win, there is much being lost. This time around, particularly, civility, respectful political discourse, integrity, and humanity have lost out. As many of you know, I recently became a citizen of the US and instead of looking forward to vote, I can’t believe I have to vote. I am sure many of you feel like I feel — this could all be very different. And then, I realized that this inhumanity is not new. Think about the events of Christ’s death - the intrigue, the lies, the false witnesses, the false accusations, the betrayal, the denial, the collaboration between the otherwise former enemies… they all point to the loss of the very things we bemoan today. Yet something won that day! Amidst all the inhumanity and brutality, love won. “Father, forgive them, for the do not know what they do.” As history looks back at the gruesome events of Jesus suffering and death, we see Jesus standing tall. He stood tall as he showed the world what it means to love. Jesus showed the world how much God loves the world. Easter is the triumph of this kind of love. Two thousand later… here was are celebrating that love at this Easter mass. The resurrection of Jesus tells us that love always wins!
Easter: An Invitation to Mercy and Love. We have gathered here to celebrate Easter under the shadows of the very horrific events in Brussels. The cycle of violence never seems to stop. Neither governments across the globe nor the terrorists have the courage or the foresight to seeks another path besides destruction of the other. History continues to tell us that violence breeds even more violence. I certainly cannot stand here at the sanctuary and say that the Cross of Jesus and the empty tomb teach us nothing. There IS another way - the way of the cross. There IS another way - the way of Jesus. But we have successfully banished Christ from the public sphere. So we continue to suffer. Unfortunately, you and I have no control over the geopolitical affairs. However, there is something you and I control - our personal self. If Easter means anything to us, it is this - that we make a personal commitment to the way of the cross. Easter is an invitation to walk the way of Jesus. After all, it is the cross of Jesus that led to the resurrection. Can Jesus depend on you to carry on his way? Or are you also going to give into to violence, discord, insults, prejudice, hatred, selfish and inward-looking discourse? Amidst all the inhumanity, can the risen Jesus depend on you to stand tall like him? Will you let love win?
The little child asked the Pope, “What did God do before he created the world?” The Pope said, “God loved!” Let us let the scandelous love of God triumph in the world!