In the aftermath of the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, our attention is once again diverted to other things. True, it doesn’t do to keep revisiting painful memories and wallowing in the despair that such events cause in our psyches.
However, if there is ONE THING that we should keep in mind when we are called to bring to mind heinous acts of violence–personally or collectively–it is that which was the subject of yesterday’s homily at my neighborhood Parish. It is a lesson that always weighs heavily on our consciences; one that is very difficult to embrace, as it goes absolutely against our most atavistic human instincts. It is the call for FORGIVENESS.
This is difficult, because whenever we feel violated, attacked, or the subject of humiliation, our natural reaction is to reciprocate in-kind, to right the wrong, to inflict pain and “even the score.” But the message I heard yesterday was a reminder that it is not our duty to punish evil. That we are called by our faith to do right, to do good. To let God do the punishing. We are called to forgive those who sin against us. To forgive is to let go of the pain that others have caused us. Forgiveness allows us to start over and to move on. Forgiveness is a relief.
Resentment, on the other hand, eats away at our souls, changes us, makes us hard-hearted and vindictive. Without forgiveness, the world (and us) cannot overcome the troubles of the past. We see this every day, at every moment; in the day-to-day human interactions, at the micro as well as the macro level. Is this not what causes most conflicts between nations? What stands in the way of progress? What makes us resent our neighbor, our own family members sometimes? Is this resentment not what is at the bottom of every dispute? Some may say that greed is the cause of most conflicts, but I say even more basic than greed is the resentment that we feel when we are unable to forgive our fellow human beings for their apparent and–in our opinion–undeserved position of advantage compared to our own.
For the unbeliever, the position of letting God “take care of business” for us is quite untenable, I know. But perhaps if we all practiced this virtue, whether motivated by religious beliefs, or just plain practicality, wouldn’t the world be a much better place in which to live?
Food for thought.