Week of Epiphany 5, Year One[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:97-120 (morning) // 81, 82 (evening)
2 Timothy 1:15-2:13
A funny thing happens when we press Jesus for rules: He gives us a much more rigorous standard of righteousness than we were looking for. In today’s gospel, some Pharisees ask Jesus about the legality of divorce. In response, Jesus makes no allowances for the separation of husband and wife. Later, when the disciples press Jesus for clarification, he insists that anyone who divorces and then remarries is guilty of adultery.
For Jesus, legalistic approaches to morality are like trying to escape an intricate knot: the more we try to wriggle our way out of complicated situations, the more the loopholes close. The more that people test and press Jesus with their legalistic understandings of righteousness, the more Jesus entangles them in a system of morality that won’t let them escape.
Try to divorce someone legally and cleanly, and Jesus calls you an adulterer. Try to follow every point of the law, and Jesus tells you that you need to sell everything you have and give it to the poor. Try to refrain from murder, and Jesus tells you that if you’ve ever been angry with anyone, you’ve committed murder in your heart.
Don’t come to Jesus seeking newer and better rules. Don’t come to Jesus with legal and moral test questions. Don’t come to Jesus seeking approval for good habits, choices, and moral standards. Instead, come to Jesus in search of a loving mercy that doesn’t depend on our righteousness.
If we ask Jesus for rules, we’ll all turn out to be adulterers by his standards. But if we ask Jesus for mercy, then we might turn out to be worthy of receiving, and capable of giving, genuine and durable love.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.