The two major themes in this week’s reading stand out in clear relief: Firstly, God’s grace is not always a comfortable and gentle thing to experience. Integral to God’s grace is the work of justice which distresses the comfortable and self-assured (the “no”) even as it comforts the distressed (the “yes”).
Jeremiah is told that his message will not only build up but break down; The psalmist reflects on his vulnerability and the threat of evil in spite of his long life of relationship with God; The love that Paul speaks about is not an easy or comfortable way to follow, but challenges our self-centredness and lethargy toward others; and finally, Jesus makes it clear that his ministry is not “friendly” and non-disruptive, but a life-changing, all-inclusive confrontation of self-righteousness and injustice.
Secondly, as with Jesus’ near execution in Luke, those who choose to follow Christ in his liberating work, must expect that they will find themselves in confrontation with injustice and those who propagate it. This will inevitably lead to great sacrifice and suffering. The work of grace is not all acceptance and healing. Sometimes it is a wounding battle – not least because we are called to love even those we challenge.
Grace is not just a “yes” to love and compassion and acceptance and forgiveness. Grace is also a “no” to hatred and apathy and condemnation and exclusion. The “yes” is often easy to speak and to receive, but the “no” is much harder, much more painful, and can lead us into confrontation and even conflict. Yet, the “no” is as important as the “yes”, for without either one, grace is not really grace at all. May our liturgy lead us deeper into both the “yes and the “no” of God’s grace this week.