Forgive your neighbor the wrong done to you;
then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.
Does anyone nourish anger against another
and expect healing from the LORD?
Can one refuse mercy to a sinner like oneself,
yet seek pardon for one’s own sins?
If a mere mortal cherishes wrath,
who will forgive his sins? – Sirach 28:2-5
This morning I inexplicably looked at my phone soon after waking up but before praying. This is something that I prefer not to do as it will lead me down a rabbit hole of non-essential information and lost time – and most importantly keeps me from the quiet time of reading and prayer that begins my day.
The news blazed across social media sites… Horrific New Zealand Terrorist Attack, New Zealand shooting, Christchurch Mosque Massacres.
Kyrie eleison. God have mercy.
Things I will not do today… I will begin with this, I will not watch or repost the livestream video that one of the attackers apparently showed will on his hateful spree. I will not read or repost the ugly manifesto behind the attacks. And hard as it may be, I will not rage against those who perpetrated this dark evil, or the ones who cheer it on. Some people will do that publicly. Many people will do that silently in their hearts. And then they will approach God.
Before I go too far down that path, I remember all of the rancor in my own heart against others, and against myself. All of these things are debris strewn wildly across the path of my heart, the path that leads me closer to God. Unless I attempt to clear that path, God remains distant from me.
Things I will do today. Spend more time with the entirety of Sirach 28, because it has a lot of wisdom to share. I will remember the sting – and the utter truth of today’s first reading from Ezekiel, “The LORD’s way is not fair!” and struggle with knowing that my view of fairness and God’s way are two different things.
Today I will remember, or at least try to remember that today’s Gospel from Matthew tells us this:
“You have heard that it was said to your ancestors,
You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.
But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother
will be liable to judgment,
and whoever says to his brother, Raqa,
will be answerable to the Sanhedrin,
and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ will be liable to fiery Gehenna.
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar,
and there recall that your brother
has anything against you,
leave your gift there at the altar,
go first and be reconciled with your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.
How many of us will approach the altar today, tomorrow, on Sunday, on any day, unreconciled from others? This is not just the spat one of us may have had with an ideologically different relative, but any stone of discord lodged in our hearts. That stone blocks the flow of Christ’s love and redemption.
If the response to today’s actions is more fear and hatred, more anger and strife, more violence and weak justifications for further violence, then we have all failed God and one another. If the response to today’s evil is to think that it has “nothing to do with me” then we have also failed God and one another.
Today as we mourn those 49 souls at prayer who were massacred so brutally, may we turn the energy of what begins as anger and recrimination into something else. I am not sure what you will choose, but me – I have that debris strewn path in my heart to deal with. May we all find our way to some kind of future free of this ugly violence, monstrous rhetoric, and evil actions. It is what God has loved us into being for, and each day that we do not get there or worse yet, stray farther from it, we distance ourselves from God. It is time, let us do this. Now. Please.