As we reflect this weekend on our faith and life in relationship to God’s Word spoken to us, I am reminded that this is a time for forgiveness and healing. Nineteen Years ago today our nation was attacked, the horror of 911 inflicted a deep wound upon our nation. This wound still has not healed completely, we still remember and we never forget those who perished this day. But what that terrible day did is bring us together as a nation and reminded us that we need one another. People flocked to the churches and houses of worship, hearts and minds turned toward God.
As we remember today those that perished in the attack on our nation, we are also drawn to look again at the tragedies that face us today. The crisis of the pandemic that has brought death, financial challenges, reminders of disparity in health care and emotional distress, impels us to again to come together as we seek healing in a time of great illness. America’s Original Sin, of Racism continues to infect our nation and lives calling us to look deeper at ways to find Forgiveness and Healing. As we seek healing I am reminded that Forgiveness and the healing of the perpetrators of evil is also needed. Although, incapable of seeing the need for healing and transformation, those who hold hatred for others also need a new awakening allowing to dawn of morning light to breakthrough the darkness of hate.
We turn our gaze to the book of Sirach, or also known as Ecclesiastes’ and we hear a word from the Lord that has the ability to transform us. We must be willing to let go of anger and embrace forgiveness to truly be free. We hear from Sirach 27 and 28:
“Wrath and anger are hateful things,
yet the sinner hugs them tight.”
“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven”
“Remember your last days, set enmity aside;
Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor;
remember the Most High’s covenant, and overlook faults”
The holding on to and embracing of anger keeps us bound. We are not free to pursue all that God has instore for us a people and nation until we can forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that the pain that was inflicted up us didn’t happen, or as though it were ok, No!. Forgiveness keeps the injustice and pain from having control over our lives, our future and our destiny.
We must have a clear understanding of what forgiveness that liberates us truly ought to be. James Cone in his book, “God of the Oppressed” writes:
“To understand the biblical view of reconciliation (forgiveness) we must see it in relation to the struggle of freedom in an oppressed society”
Forgiveness starts with God, James Cone reminded us that, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” 2Cor. 5:19
“Reconciliation is not a human quality or potentiality, although it affects human relationships. It is a divine action that embraces the whole world, changing our relationship to God and making us new creatures. Formerly we were slaves but reconciliations means that we are free” James Cone “God of the Oppressed” p228
Jesus invites us to be reconciled to one another. That forgiveness must be always a possibility if we are to truly be free. This reconciliation that Jesus speaks about in Gospel comes from the ability to see with compassion the circumstance of our brother or sister. The master looks upon the servant indebted to him with compassion, “Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.” Matthew 18:23
When we see in the situation and the circumstance of our brother and sisters suffering the possibility to act with compassion, it is then that reconciliation and change can happen. It is here looking beyond our fears, and self concern that our heart is changed to act with love and understanding.
I close with this thought from author and activist James Baldwin when he writes:
“Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected – those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! – and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person – ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”