Bread In The Wilderness

Father Carl Diederichs

All Saints Catholic Church

 

The readings for this weekend, September 7, 2014 are: Ezekiel 33: 7-9, Romans 13: 8-18, and Matthew 18: 15-20. Our theme is forgiveness for everyone, all the time, and no exceptions.

 

Ezekiel doesn’t use the word “forgiveness” but he does know that to warn someone who is going off the deep end is, in fact, to love them. And we are mandated, as Ezekiel was, to care enough about our sister or brother to correct them. And we know that this does not allow us to browbeat someone or even say out loud what you think his or her offense might be. Love must motivate the correction.

 

Paul’s letter to the Romans actually gives us the basis for any correction: love. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And love does no evil to another.

 

And Jesus, too, in this reading makes it quite clear that our love for another is what urges us on to forgiveness. And forgiveness is at the heart of our faith. And no one is written off. I sometimes read the line about treating folks who do not accept our forgiveness as “Gentiles and tax-collectors” as a kind of washing our hands of the situation, until I thought about who were the folks Jesus hung out with, Gentiles and tax-collectors! They may just need more proof that we do love them.

 

For us to take this almost simplistic mandate from Jesus and make it real for us today we need to learn the skills of being peacemakers. The unfortunate reality is that most folks have never learned to work with conflicts. People walk away without any solution.

 

We are so willing to justify ourselves and so unwilling to engage in self-examination. We will go from defending ourselves to flippant apologies without any real self-examination. We often apologize just to get the thing over with. Not healthy.

 

But all starts with Grace. We say grace builds on nature and that would mean in this case that urged on by the power of grace we could become more honest with ourselves, more willing to admit our faults. It is the nature of our spiritual life to go into “things” and to make them all they can be. So, our faults and failings, readily admitted to can give us the great freedom to ask for forgiveness and grant it to others. As James Alison says we should find joy in being wrong. It makes us much more willing to forgive others since we are being forgiven all the time.

 

Forgiveness and healing are the fruits of our relationship with Jesus. When we gather with just one or two others in forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus is there too.