My friends, we are faced this week with our purely human selves and our responses as humans to what life brings. While it may be purely human to respond to hatred, lack of mercy, violence of all kinds with more of the same; it isn’t what our brother Jesus, who was fully human and fully divine, asks of us as his followers. We see in the Scriptures that at the summit of his earthly life on Good Friday; Jesus chose to forgive those who had treated him so badly.
Thinking more fully on Jesus’ response to the ultimate suffering of the cross, he asked his Maker, his Abba, to forgive them because they did not know what they were doing. Perhaps that may be a way for all of us to forgive the wrongs done to us in this life—that the perpetrators of evil didn’t know, nor understand what they were doing.
Most of us have lived long enough to know that the Old Testament formula of “an eye for an eye” does not bring resolution or peace, but only more of the same. Jesus tells Peter in today’s gospel that he must forgive 70×7—or in other words—always! Forgiveness must always be our response to evil done.
A more present day prophet, Martin Luther King Jr., as we recorded last week said, “Only love can bring an end to hate; only light can bring an end to darkness.” It would seem that we are called to more than a human response.
Jesus struggled too with his humanity—to love as he saw his God loving, responding to his world in more of a divine manner. Jesus, like us, encountered peoples’ ignorance, arrogance, lack of mercy, selfishness—that was what the cross was all about and all the hate called forth the very best in him—rather than hate the perpetrators of the cross—in the end, he simply loved them.
We have to wonder how many who played a part in his actual death, who may have watched him die, were ultimately affected for the good. Scripture doesn’t tell us, but I believe; they had to have been changed for the good.
This past week, our country remembered the 16th anniversary of September 11th 2001 when our country was attacked with the bringing down of the Twin Towers in New York City. I was moved more this year by what the suffering all those years ago has done to some of the children of the more than 3,000 who died that day.
Rather than holding on to the rage, the violence—the ultimate grief, some of these children, now adults, have chosen instead to follow in their parents’ footsteps, reaching out to save rather than kill or hurt others.
The two wars of the last 16 years, one fought in retaliation, one basically out of greed, in the lands, hearts and minds of the “enemy” with victims on both sides are still going on today and only love, only light can bring an end to the hate, to the darkness. Only forgiveness—only forgiveness can ultimately bring peace.
We have to do unto others as we would want them to do unto us the Golden Rule, the prophets of all times, Sirach, Jesus, all the rest tell us so passionately. Maybe the greatness of this country is yet to be realized when we give up our weapons of mass destruction and invite the rest of the world to do the same. We have no ground to stand on asking North Korea to give up theirs, yet hold on to ours.
So friends, on this 24th weekend in Ordinary Time when we hear from the psalmist that our God “is tender and compassionate, slow to anger and most loving,” and Paul tells us that, “we don’t live for ourselves,” we have no simple answers to these very complex questions of living out our humanity coupled with that in us that is divine, only that we keep our eyes on Jesus and as his followers, see the light that will lead to peace.