Sunday, June 4, 2017

To Love Mercy

Watching the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame this week has caused me to think about outcasts and the idea of sanctuary. As people of faith, do we notice those people suffering on the outside and try to bring them to safety, in an attempt to protect them from harm? Or are we more about trying to keep people out, in an effort to protect ourselves?

Frollo, the villain in the movie, chased a gypsy woman to her death on the steps of the Notre Dame cathedral as she attempted to seek sanctuary for her newborn son. When Frollo discovered that the baby was half-formed he started to dispose of the "worthless" creature. But he instead listened to the priest who said he should raise him as his own. And he kept Quasimodo locked away as a slave in the bell tower.

Twenty years later, an outcast gypsy woman named Esmeralda stood up for Quasimodo at the Festival of Fools where he made his first public appearance and was ridiculed.

This scene from the movie is very moving:

God Help the Outcasts

I don't know if You can hear me
Or if You're even there
I don't know if You would listen
To a gypsy's prayer

Yes, I know I'm just an outcast
I shouldn't speak to You
Still I see Your face and wonder
Were You once an outcast too?

God help the outcasts
Hungry from birth
Show them the mercy
They don't find on earth

God help my people
We look to You still
God help the outcasts
Where nobody will

I ask for wealth, I ask for fame
I ask for glory to shine on my name
I ask for love I can possess
I ask for God and His angels to bless me

I ask for nothing
I can get by
But I know so many
Less lucky than I

Please help my people
The poor and downtrod

I thought we all were
Children of God

God help the outcasts
Children of God

In her book Invitations From God, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun writes, "Jesus' followers follow Jesus' example of humility and vulnerability. They risk his journey of descent--the journey that will be the making of us. Maturity, humility, patience, godliness--these are all fruit of following Jesus. These are the fruit of following Jesus down."

Esmeralda risked her life for Quasimodo at the festival, and he in turn risked his life for her by scaling the cathedral walls and carrying her to safety. A third character joined them in the risk-taking: Phoebus the soldier, who refused to follow Frollo's orders to kill innocent gypsies and courageously stood beside his two new friends. Instead of seeing them as beneath him, he recognized the genuineness of their character and realized that they could teach him the meaning of real friendship.

As these three transformed heroes selflessly protected each other through helping them to find sanctuary, they embodied the challenge of Micah 6:8: "What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with your God."

Esmeralda and Phoebus did not focus on Quasimodo's deformities but on his true beauty, and they helped the townspeople to accept him as one of their heroes as well.

Calhoun states, "Each of our faces reflects a facet of the image and beauty of our Father in heaven."

"We were meant to see our value through the adoring gaze of the Father, who mirrors back to us our worth."

Frollo had convinced the gypsies that they were worthless and that the people of Paris would be better off to be rid of them. But he faced his own judgment at the end of the movie, and the mindset of the people was reversed.

This is the transformative power of love: "Kindness softens hard hearts, disarms the defended, mends the hurting, values the unnoticed, strengthens the weak and brings in God's kingdom. In a hard world, kindness shines with the face of God." (Calhoun)

How is the love of mercy changing your life?
What does the Kingdom of God look like to you?

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