Passages: Isaiah 1:2-15; Rom 6:12-23, Mt. 12:1-8
Ընթերցուածքներ՝ Եսայ. Ա 2-15; Հռոմ. Զ 12-23; Մատ. ԺԲ 1-8
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
With no strength to go on and enemies firing on all side, there was no hope of survival. Any moment now, a bullet could hit him and stop his heart, ending the nightmare. Surrounded by bodies, while looking for survivors, what could he do? What should he do? He could see the dead bodies of his friends and enemies surrounding him, and he could hear the cry of those wounded asking for help. On May 4, 1945, Desmond Doss of the United States army, helped save at least 75 wounded soldiers, including Japanese soldiers by dragging or carrying them to receive medical treatment. This amazing story, now immortalized in the Hollywood movie, “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of the corporal medic Desmond Doss who went to war without a gun. He went to war to help save and rescue those who needed aid. I don’t know how many of us, would willingly go to war without a gun.
This past week, we heard arguments of why people should be allowed to carry a gun anywhere they go, let alone war. Yet, we hear of this man who did not even carry a gun into the physical battlefield of WWII. However, regardless of if he was armed or not, and regardless of what today the United States is arguing about gun control, there is something greater that this story reveals to us. This week, praise and condemnation rang out in the streets and social media about recent rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States. Whether it was the decision to allow carrying handguns or the overturning of Roe v. Wade and abortion, the response resounded everywhere. On the one hand we see the affirmation of the importance of life at all stages and the emphasis of persevering that life by limited and restricting the means to destroy those lives. On the other, we see the vulgarity of both left and right activists choosing violence, and hatred to excuse their behavior.
Make no mistake, whether any of these recent decisions are “constitutional rights” or privileges, abortion as it is celebrated by media and society today is an evil that kills innocent lives, as it is an evil to boastfully pride ourselves on the size and number of guns we can carry on us. However, there is an even greater evil within us in the way we outwardly or inwardly respond to one another as both supporters for and against these decisions. Evil exists in this world my dears. Sickness, pain, suffering, rape, prejudice, racism, sexism, violence, murder and killing, debauchery and vulgarity exists in this sinful world. As Christian’s we must call evil for what it is. However, that also means we must address the sin that we ourselves live by. We must not think that just because we call ourselves Christian, or because we pray, go to Church, fast, or read Holy Scripture that we are in any way more righteous than those who don’t do these things. Nor that we are any better than those who do the opposite of those things. Rather, as we read from the Gospel words today, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice…” (v. 7)
Mercy my dears; what mercy and what sacrifice? Sacrifice symbolizes those who go to Church and “follow” the rules; those who act righteously. Yet, Christ says that in comparison to what we would consider righteous, mercy is far more important. Mercy is the understanding that we all need God; we all are sinners; no one is above the need for God’s love and healing. Whether it is the protestor in the street yelling for or against abortion laws; whether it is the gay couple down the street or the straight family in the suburbs; whether Armenian or not; republican or democrat; white, Asian or black; the priest or the criminal; the Pharisee or the Apostles – we are all sinful and need God. I am no less sinful than the woman who either chose or was forced to have an abortion; I am no less sinful than the man who cheats on his spouse. We are all sinful my dears, and my freedom from sin, is only found in Christ Jesus! When we understand this as a foundational and core reality of our humanity, than by truly coming to God can we learn to be merciful, loving and forgiving even to those who would be defined as our enemy. In the same way, that the medic Desmond Doss showed mercy to those Japanese soldiers in the battlefield who only moments ago were shooting at him.
My dears, showing mercy does not negate the evil or the wrong done however, it creates the same opportunity of love and growth that has been given to us by the grace of God. God has mercy on us and loves us despite the sinful life we live and choose to live. Does it make our sin acceptable? Absolutely not. However, that is true mercy that through which we grow closer to becoming like God, being in Communion with God. As St. Isaac the Syrian teaches us, “Do not foster hatred for the sinners, for we are all guilty…hate the sins, and pray for them so that you may be made to be like Christ, who had no dislike for sinners, but prayed with them and for them.” Yes, my dears it is easy to say this world is evil. Reading the words of Isaiah, in verse 4, some of us would describe today’s society in these words: “Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.” Yes, today’s society has forsaken the Lord greatly, yet, look at the a few verses later 16-19 “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. ‘Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land…’” Through Christ Jesus, all of us are called to repentance; to be baptized and washed of our sins; to willing be obedient. But to do so truthfully, we must humble ourselves and accept that we ALL need to repent.
Because whether it is the battlefield of WWII or today’s everyday life, any moment we could be struck down and continue a life of sin. Any moment we can feel as though we are surrounded by enemies, and it is all falling apart. Yet, when we accept our need for the Lord, and come to be washed of our sins, when we show love, mercy and compassion to all creatures of God than we shall be white as snow, we shall be the real presence of God in the lives of everyone around us – even those who don’t agree with us or who hate us. For I desire mercy, not sacrifice; I desire acts of compassion not retribution; I desire you. May our Heavenly Father always look to us mercifully. Regardless, of how we feel the politics of this world are unfolding, let us pray that peace, and mercy will overcome the hatred and anger that fills our streets, social media platforms, our hearts and minds. Disagree with each other and learn to listen. Let us pray that real healing will take place in our lives, our homes, our communities and our countries. And may the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ guide us always, Amen!