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Rabbi Brad on Absalom and Experiencing God’s Love for Us


Rabbi Brad Hirschfield chats with Father Dave and Christina about a recent homily preached by Pope Francis.

“Pope Francis is talking about the love of the Father and compares David’s reaction to his son’s death to God’s love for us and how God weeps for us,” Christina explains. “Pope Francis points out the reaction of the people when they had found out that Absalom had passed. They said, ‘This person was against you. He denied you. Denied your paternity. Insulted you and persecuted you. Celebrate and rejoice that you have won.’ But Dave only said, ‘My son. My son. My son,’ and wept. To compare that to the Father’s love for us is so beautiful. God is inherently a Father who loves us and weeps for us when we turn away.”

In his homily, Pope Francis also says that God never denies his paternity. Rabbi Brad responds, “We may deny God. But if God is God, he would never and could never deny us. It is not possible. That’s the power of this story. The mark of parenthood is unconditional love … Which has nothing to do with saying I also have hope, and expectations, and desires. That’s implicit in what Pope Francis said. To say God weeps when we sin against ourselves means there is a system of sin. It’s not, ‘Do whatever you want because I love you and it’s all cool.’ No, that’s not what’s in that teaching. It is clear in this story that Absalom is wrong. That’s why it’s so powerful to love unconditionally. There is right and there is wrong, but my love for you is deeper and more eternal than the right and the wrong. There is unconditional love and genuine expectation.”

“Typically, genuine expectation is incentivized with conditional love and that’s not healthy,
He continues. “And unconditional love says, ‘No, give up all expectation.’ And that’s not healthy either. Here, it’s unconditional love with expectation.”

Father Dave adds that God is associated with both justice and mercy. Rabbi Brad responds, “The best rule I know is that at any moment we are inclined toward justice, we should check in with mercy. And anytime we are inclined toward mercy we should check in with justice also. Because oftentimes, the mercy we show to one comes at the price of injustice to another. There’s an old rabbinic teaching that says, ‘Be cautious of becoming kind to the cruel. Because if you become kind to the cruel, you will eventually become cruel to the kind.’ There should be no merciless justice and there should also be no justice free mercy.” Original Air 2-05-20