This Sunday we begin the season of Ordinary Time in which we shift focus from God’s story as taught and revealed in Christ to our story and how we will live as faithful Christ-followers. So, we begin this season the readings for this week, with a focus on faith and righteousness, challenging us to make a simple but difficult choice: will our faith be about religious sacrifice or mercy? Will we give ourselves to maintaining religious institutions or will we focus our lives and faith on sowing kindness, compassion, empathy, love, and support to the poor, excluded, oppressed, and broken people in our world? Ultimately this is a question of how we will interpret the Gospel of Jesus and how we will seek to live it out in our lives and communities.
Abraham is called by God and responds in faith both to the call and to God’s promises. Echoing the spirit of the Abraham story, Psalm 33 celebrates the nation that is chosen by God and calls the righteous to praise God. And then the epistle to the Romans celebrates Abraham’s faith and calls the believers to follow his example of faith.
The Gospel reading brings them together by highlighting the faithlessness of the Pharisees who question Jesus’ friendship with sinners. To them Jesus repeats the words of Hosea 6:6 that God wants mercy and not sacrifice. We then see Jesus’ faithfulness in healing and raising up those who call on him for help, fulfilling the words of the Psalm and demonstrating the healing and restoration that faith can bring.
Essentially, the heart of this week’s theme is that God does not require extravagant, rigid religious observance, but faith and faithfulness in following the way of Jesus and sharing God’s love, grace, and mercy wherever we can.