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Forgiveness

Forgiveness

Psalm 24, 29 (Morning)

Psalm 8, 84 (Evening)

Leviticus 8:1-13,30-36

Hebrews 12:1-14

Luke 4:16-30

Recently, I got a great deal of insight (and a chuckle) from one of our elderly parishioners, who now lives in a nursing home. She was recounting a story about a terrible row that happened in her family during a holiday dinner–one with wounds so deep, two sides of the family stopped speaking to each other. “Does that still bother you now?” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “They’re all dead. No point in being angry at them now!”

Our Epistle today brings up an interesting topic–enduring hostility. All us have borne the brunt of someone’s hostility at some time or another in our lives, whether it was the result of bullying, intimidation, or wounds outside our control, where we became collateral damage. Some have endured hostility so severe that lives were lost by it, and those kinds of hostilities, sadly, are still with us today, in the form of things like the present turmoil in South Sudan. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of hostility in our world, whether the hostility is large or small, systemic or personal. Not all of us have been as lucky as my elderly friend and simply had to live long enough for the pressure of coexisting with hostility to be lifted from us. Navigating the Way of the Cross through the drainage ditch of hostility is no small feat sometimes.

Yet Paul tells us it is precisely the way of the Cross that is our greatest hope in enduring. He instructs us to consider the hostility Jesus endured on the cross, as a way of enduring the various hostilities we face.

“Wait a minute!” you might be thinking. “Jesus on the cross was Lent! This is EASTER! You know, resurrection and stuff! Happy, happy, joy, joy!” Well, yeah, it certainly is Easter–yet a quick glance at the world news, our family or work situations, or maybe even the person who flipped us off in traffic, are testimony that none of that stuff got put on hold in the face of all that joy. So much for “Hostility takes a holiday.”

In the face of it all, Paul still tells us to “pursue peace with everyone.” But how?

When we ponder the Cross, one thing seems to jump out above all others–forgiveness. Not only did Jesus teach and preach forgiveness, he lived it right up to the time he was crucified, forgiving his tormentors–even giving them the benefit of the doubt–“They know not what they do.”

One of the things I’ve come to learn about forgiveness is that ordinary people can seem to find real peace–the peace of Christ–when they choose to forgive–even in situations where it seems they would have every right to be angry and embittered. I’ve been reading some of the narratives on the Forgiveness Project website lately, and I’m astounded at the depth of the wounds people have healed within themselves via the power of forgiveness. It’s hard for me to fathom that there are people who forgiven the killers of their loved ones in the Rwandan genocide, for instance–and we’re not just talking forgiveness at a distance. We’re talking, “I forgave that person and we get together now and then and have a good relationship,” kind of forgiveness.

To me, stories like this are the heart of what the Resurrection is all about. It starts with forgiveness, and there’s always one more thing we can learn about forgiveness in pursuing peace.

How has choosing to forgive, even when the world would say you had every right not to, led you closer to the heart of the resurrected Christ?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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