Posted by: matt25 | September 12, 2011

In Order To Live, I Must Forgive

I was challenged this past weekend and as many images and thoughts were brought to my mind on the 10 year anniversary of 9/11.  It was very difficult to watch the images on television memorials even as I was moved by the stories of those most closely touched by the loss of family and friends.

I relived, although blunted by the distance of a decade, my own shock, and remembered how I could barely choke out the words that something horrible had happened as I called my father and told him to turn on his television.  However, the memories of the pain, which was shared by and galvanized our nation, was not what challenged me.  No, the challenges were to come from my faith, and what God led me to see and hear this weekend.

I usually drive with the radio off in the car but after running an errand I turned it on and I was drawn into what I immediately recognized as a homily in progress.  Not knowing who the preacher was I was captivated by his heartfelt remembrance of the horrible tragedy that was on the minds of so many.  Then came the challenge.  He saw the attacks clearly and undeniable as being impossible unless those who carried them out did not respect life.  They could not have recognized the inherent dignity of each of the lives that would be taken that day.  Furthermore, he said that the war against terror could not be won unless we understood that point and battled our own attitudes that the terrorist acts reflected back to us.  He connected the violence perpetrated against innocent adults in the World Trade Center to the same root cause that leads to violence against innocent babies in the womb.  That was a challenge to me.

At first, I thought well yes but let’s not downplay the significance of the terrorist acts that were being memorialized.  Then I remembered the word’s of two of the spiritual giants who walked the earth during my lifetime, John Paul II who said, “The promotion of the culture of life should be the highest priority in our societies…If the right to life is not defended decisively as a condition for all other rights of the person, all other references to human rights remain deceitful and illusory.”, and Mother Teresa, “We must not be surprised when we hear of murders, killings, of wars, or of hatred…If a mother can kill her own child, what is left but for us to kill each other?” .  This preacher and my own conscience are challenging me to be more open to the defense of life in the womb, life in the midst of poverty, life in the prisons, life in nursing homes and hospitals, life from the moment of conception until natural death.

The second challenge began with my reading of the scriptures for Mass this Sunday, which spoke of the necessity of forgiveness.  This challenge came to a crest for me when my voice nearly cracked with emotion as I proclaimed the final words of the Gospel passage from Matthew 18:21-35.  “Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt.  So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness is not merely a nice idea we might want to consider it is essential!  To follow Christ means to forgive.  If we do not forgive, we harbor resentments over little things and hatred over major things that can grow like a cancer in our spirit until what fills our hearts and our thoughts is black and joyless.   In order to live we must forgive.  What could be more challenging than to follow the example of a tortured man, close to death, crying out “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” Luke23:34.

Can I forgive terrorists?  Can I forgive those who have harmed my children? Can I forgive those who have done me wrong at work? Can I forgive those who disrespect me?  Can I forgive those who steal from me or destroy my property?  Can I forgive those who attack my beliefs?  No, I can’t, at least not right away and certainly not without the help of divine grace.  But, with time and prayer, I believe that I can and that I must, for this is the way that leads us out of the hell of violence and hatred into the heaven of peace and love.

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