Sunday, March 26, 2017

Striving For The Ideal


A priest writing in a pastoral bulletin for clergy mentions an incident on a trip to an island some years ago. A grandmother was carrying a heavy load and would put it down every few steps. He saw it all and in his own mind the thought was present to help the woman but no movement of the feet. A woman behind him ran up ahead to help the grandmother and took one of the packages.

Why seeing the woman's difficulty did he not offer to help? Why didn't the heart and body move? He is always talking about love but those who are less concerned with talk are often more sensitive to the needs of others. He reminds us of the famous words: "the greatest distance in travel is from the head to the heart and the heart to the feet."

Associating for the most part with people with leisure he is not close to the poor consequently the motivation to help is missing.

The famous Russian novelist Tolstoy and his wife Sophia had 13 children. His wife mentions in her writings that he wrote often and eloquently about the love of Jesus and thought a great deal about it but it was not practiced in his life.

Living with high ideals and to feel the love in the heart is important so we read the Scriptures, spiritual books and listen to talks and mistake this for actual acts of love in our lives and think that we are doing much.

He is now up in age, has traveled much but most of what he has learned has stayed in the head. When he sees the acts of others and their concern for others he is moved but making a decision and carrying it out correctly is not easy.

Helping others is important but the way they are helped is also important. Giving of money is not always the best way to help. If a person is not helped to be strong in heart they may be hurt by the help given. He feels that to help the movements that are concerned for the poor may be wiser.

As an individual, he has no reason with his personal history, appearance, or way of life to receive the respect and love of others, his position in the church, his priesthood has made all the difference.  Actually,  not only his priesthood but also all those who have lived the priestly life in a sacrificial way and have moved the hearts of many has influenced the way many see him. To repay what has been received is to live in the manner that they did.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Sewol Tragedy Revisited

On the morning of April 16 of 2014, the Sewol ferry sank on a trip from Inchon to Jeju island. The ferry capsized carrying 476 people, mostly high school students, 304 died. This tragedy has continued to smolder in society and a reason for the unfavorable impression given by president Park to many of the citizens.

The National Assembly with more than two-thirds majority voted to remove Park from office on charges of corruption, misconduct, and negligence. All eight of the Constitutional Court justices supported the actions of the National Assembly to impeach the president. Interestingly the allegations of negligence related to the sinking of the Sewol Ferry were seen as troubling but not a reason for impeachment. 

A series of articles in Bible and Life visited the issue again in a Before and After headline for the articles. One writer questions himself: if his daughter had died in the tragedy what would he have done? The feelings aroused with the sinking even after three years are still smarting. For many, it is the lack of transparency and the feeling that efforts are made to hide the reasons for the tragedy.

Why did the ferry capsize? The ferry was carrying more passengers than allowed and many points of illegality were ignored. Why didn't the passengers escape? Many who were in charge of the ship were temporary workers, with little training but took most of the punishment. It was shown that all of the passengers could have been saved if appropriate measures were taken but the confusion and failure in coordination and misinformation were reasons for the tragedy.

The families of the Sewol victims have been critical voices in movements for democracy in Korea and a reason for the mobilization of the citizens asking for the impeachment of the president. The yellow ribbons have been a sign both of mourning but also remembrance and a desire for social change.

Raising of the Sewol ferry had been delayed but just a few days ago, accomplished. There are many questions that will be answered with the raising of the ferry. There are still 9 victims whose bodies were never found, a difficult situation for the grieving parents. One writer mentions in his article the collapse of a gymnasium just a few months before the Sewol tragedy killing nine, added more pain to the Sewol sinking, and the citizen's desire for a new way of being Korea.


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mission and Vocation

The recent impeachment of our president prompted a Catholic Medical School professor to bring to the attention of the readers of the Catholic Times his thoughts on vocation and mission.

We are persons who are answering a call. This may be an individual call, a societal or one we feel comes  from God. The call confirms our relationship. It's a call to go out into society but each in their own way. When the call is from above we call it a vocation, and when we act we call it a mission. I am always the subject of the call.

In society, vocation is used as occupation, profession, a way of life.  In a religious understanding vocation is a sacred call. Mission in society is seen as our task or duty that we carry out. The individual call, the societal and the call of God may be seen as one.

Traditionally, a person's name contained the expectations of the person. A proper attitude developed from this.Therefore, the old scholars have focused not only on public life but also on personal life as well. The human personality is manifested through work and confirmed in human relationships. We have seen how injustice was revealed recently in our own society, destroying human relationships and harming society. Vocation and mission were missing.

The call to an individual awakens his or her identity of who they are, the call of society shows the importance of social life and the call of God leads to a full life. The call can be seen as a series of calls and the response, one.
   
This may be seen in the Scriptures. God called Adam, Abraham, and Saul. Adam and Eve recognized their sin and worked to take care of the earth and bring new life. Abraham becomes the father of all nations and Saul who persecuted the Christians becomes an apostle proclaiming Jesus as Christ.

If we recall the implications of our calling and mission, we Christians need to consider three things about the work we do. Is the work we are doing one that God has uniquely assigned to each one of us, is  it for the people of the world or giving life to God's truth?  If our lives fit into these three ways, whatever we do is a mission. If you look at work from these three perspectives, everything that a person does is holy. Labor that is engaged in production, work that creates, and activity that enriches life through social participation are all holy.  

This is because it is the fulfillment of the Word of God in direct and indirect ways. We are at the forefront of the task to establish a new way of life. It is a time for each of us to look into our hearts and accept our vocation and mission. God 's call is faint but clear, and our response is weak but sincere.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Living a Happy Married Life



Who are the happily married couples? Many examples of 'lovey-dovey' couples come to mind. So begins an article in the Kyeongyang magazine by a layman who works closely with married couples in the Seoul Diocese.

Often we are under the illusion that what is needed is to maintain a passionate and romantic relationship. He quotes the world famous John Gottman known for his work on marital stability. He considers two traits that make for a happy marriage.

The first requisite is to be a sincere friend to your spouse. What image arises when the word friend is heard? An easy, comfortable, strong, without reservation relationship, is it not?

"A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure. A faithful friend is beyond price, no sum can balance his worth. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy, such as he who fears God finds; For he who fears God behaves accordingly, and his friend will be like himself" (Sirach 6:14-17).

The second requisite is when you fight, do it wisely. Not to fight is not possible, the only way not to fight  between two equals is not to marry. Since we are all different in makeup and living closely together to have conflict is only natural. When we hear that a couple has never fought usually it's because one of the spouses doesn't have the mental freedom to do so.

He lists ten things that should be addressed:

1) Don't let the problems amass.
2) Don't touch each other's sore spots.
3) Don't attack the other's physical complexes.
4) Call a time out when one is overly agitated.
5) Stay away from abusive language.
6) Don't compare with others, don't touch the other's self-respect.
7) Don't fight in front of the children.
8) No violence.
9) Never bring up the word divorce.
10) Put yourself in the spouse's shoes.

When there is no conflict the relationship is dead. When we have areas of conflict the relationship is alive. When the couple fights in a wise manner the relationship can become stronger. "A wife does not belong to herself but to her husband; equally, a husband does not belong to himself but to his wife" (1 Cor. 7: 4).

The article concludes with a reminder that a couples' goal is not happiness but oneness. When my spouse is happy I am happy when sad I am sad. Until we are separated in death we are not alone. Isn't this a reason for the happiness couples should have. Aren't we too quick to forget this?

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Harmony Between Speed and Slowness


Harmony between speed and slowness is the topic of an article in the Catholic Times by a seminary rector. Korean society is conscious of the attraction they have for speed. The old Latin axiom 'Festina Lente' (Make haste slowly) is not admired by society. Many are the articles that we see on the subject not only in the Catholic press.

He tells his readers that speed is part of their DNA. Overnight we see changes. A street traveled and familiar, in a month's time it's difficult to find. One enterprise that does not fail is the home delivery service. We want our deliveries to get there quickly.

He mentions when he goes overseas how frustrated he is with the pace of society. Internet news is slow, the lines at the banks are slow. Even presently as he writes he is conscious of the speed of his writing. He's Korean after all.

One can't say that speed is necessarily good or bad for both have their place in our lives. Korea is a leader in both the information technology and in mobile services showing the value of speed but we also see the mistakes and damage done with a desire for speed and taking shortcuts both in one's personal world and in business.

Korea became a financial world leader in a short period of time but this was not done without cost. Workers were sacrificed and we had many unreliable results of work. You can get drunk quickly on a boilermaker with 'one shot', however, what about health and family? The answer doesn't come easily. We can get to a destination in a car quickly but at the risk of life. Why have we been so enamored with speed?

Speed fits the world of sports. It is not something we need in our daily lives. No reason to have qualms of conscience on the matter. Improvisation and adaptability are all good but that is not all of life. In the classroom, he has to correct the students at times for cheating for they are missing the opportunity to learn and to memorize.

The social community is formed by certain essential steps. This, however, leaves us with a feeling of something missing. We need to follow the path of virtue. It's not a first class society or a top notch society but a grace-filled society that we desire: where no one feels left out, everyone a neighbor. Necessary is the personality change of those who only think of themselves. They need to be formed to have concern for others. All the rest will fall into place.

We don't want to praise slowness unconditionally. When there is no need for slowness, slowness for its own sake when others are involved is not a virtuous act. When we have harmony and togetherness the problems faced will be solved. Speed and dependability working together will have good results. Nimbleness and prudence working together will always bring a better solution.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

If the Bugle's Sound Is Uncertain...

A priest writing in View from the Ark of the Catholic Times reflects on his life as a seminarian and priest. Priests with whom he has  studied, lived with and related with over the years are different from one another. Not a very brilliant discovery and yet our writer's reason for grieving.
 
We have all been born, brought up and matured in different environments which obviously means we will live in different ways with different attitudes. However, this did give him much to think about and brought sadness. Not only does he feel a difference from the priests in other dioceses but also with the priests in his own diocese, those who attended the same seminary and his classmates.

All have gone through the same courses of studies in Church teaching but on the human person, work, politics, the nation... viewpoints are different and even in the understanding of the Gospel and Church we have opposite positions. Understanding the situation takes some time and pain follows.

There are 7 Seminaries, and 5019 priests in Korea, 1706 parishes, and 761 mission stations and about 10% of the population is Catholic. With humor, he tells the readers that with only 3.1% concentration of salt we have salt water in our oceans, why the absence of any taste of God's kingdom in society? Reality is different to a degree that hurts.

With over 5,000 clerics with different thoughts and values, we have parishioners also shouting out different slogans and values. The present impeachment of the president and political situation in Korea has the pro-con dynamics working well. In the same area, we have those with candles and those with flags. This is not only a division of society but also of the church. How can this be when we have the clear teaching of the Church in the social Gospel and yet many feel more comfortable expressing their own values and opinions rather than the faith beliefs
of the community.

He feels anger at what he sees and tells himself that the Church is made up of many people with different thoughts and opinions. He needs to understand this and resign himself to reality. Since the priests have differences of opinion it's natural that the Christians will be divided but this makes him feel all the more frustrated.

Catholic means universal but the words coming out of the mouth of believers is not one even in essentials. Our gaze is not on Jesus but each on their own security and well being so our voices are divided. We need to become interested in the situations in which we find ourselves, know what is going on, before we become engaged. We are called to be on the side of the poor as was Jesus and a need to remember the words: "If the bugle's sound is uncertain, who will get ready for battle?" (Cor. 14:80)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Education in Virtue

Differentiating a gift from a bribe is not always easy. Size, reason, motive are important in determining whether we are dealing with a gift or bribe. At times it may be a mixture of the two for we are all imperfect human beings.

A gift is something of value given without any expectation of return while a bribe is given with the hope of a future benefit. We can see, in many cases, how easy it is to blur the difference. Gifts are open to a wrong impression and a very innocent gesture can be interpreted as an attempt to win influence with the receiver of the gift

Korea last year passed the 'anti-graft act' which puts a limit on the value of gifts, meals, and congratulatory and condolence money for public officials, journalists, and teachers.They are forbidden to accept meals worth more than 30,000 won about 27 dollars. This is only one of the possible situations where the law may be broken. 

In Korea, gift-giving is an important part of the culture and where the oldest person often pays for the meal, the conflict of interest situation is often present and makes many uncomfortable.

A writer for the Catholic Peace Weekly reminds the readers of the present situation in sections of Seoul where stores have closed because of the efforts to eradicate graft and bribery in society. This will also impact the farmers whose products will not find the way to the market.

Often to cure we cause pain. Overcoming problems in society require steps that will hurt but are considered necessary to bring justice and a level playing field. Bribery in Korea was part of the way business was done and a desire to put an end to this type of corruption has been present for many years and finally, a law was enacted but the adverse effects of the law have begun to show.

Last year with the implementation of the anti-graft law we have a slow down in many areas. Flower shops, farmers, restaurants see a drop in income because of the law.

The government does see the results are not helpful for the economy and we will probably see an increase in the money that may be spent for gifts and the price of meals, and gifts allowed to be given to public officials increased. However, the intention of the law was good but we need more than the external use of law to influence society and more the integrity of the person and a desire for virtuous living.

We all know that gifts should be gifts. We talk a lot about unconditional love, and similarly, gifts that are truly gifts are without strings attached: unconditional. Our educational programs should be interested in educating the virtuous man whose internal barometer can quickly distinguish between what is a gift and what is a bribe. Laws are necessary but so is an education in virtue.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Catholic and Protestant Unity

The Catholic Times sponsored a conversation between Fr. Song and Fr. Park, both with  similar positions within Catholicism and Protestantism vis a vis Ecumenicism. Fr. Song gave his ideas on the way Catholicism sees the commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation as did Fr. Park for the Protestant side

Fr. Song mentions that Catholics see the Reformation as a wound. The Reformation broke the unity of the Catholic Church. However, even though the Protestants are  not returning to Catholicism the Church is not unilaterally blaming them or taking pride in our strength. Catholicism, he says, shares part of the blame for the break in unity.

Fr Park mentions from the beginning there was not the division in Christianity. In the latter part of the 4th Century when Christianity became the Empire's Religion the Church began to consolidate itself. Eastern Christianity in the years before and after the tenth century began to break away from Roman Christianity and 500 years later the Protestant leave, making for the big three divisions of Christianity.

The different Protestant denominations, Fr. Park continues, need to see what separates us from the teachings of Catholicism before the break,  examples would be the issue of justification, examining the teachings on salvation, the place of tradition, and discover again the place of Scripture and understanding the organizational setup. 

These have been the points of dispute and they need to be seen with our present day insights. The different denominations have to determine if we have correctly followed the insights of the Reformation. It is both a commemoration and a self-examination. These are the two keywords for our commemoration.

Fr. Song agrees with Fr. Park. The commemoration should be more than remembering the Reformation. Catholicism needs to continually reform to be the church that Jesus wanted. Need to face the divisions, and begin to talk with each other, cooperate and look for what unites.

This is a good time to get rid of our prejudices and understand how each of us understands our different positions. For the Catholic, the Reformation was a serious wound but it can also be an opportunity to understand the why and the way we need to go as church.

The mission that we have at this time in history is to become one says Fr. Park, which means we need to talk and understand each other, this in truth has been going on for some time. In Europe the results have come out in books.

In the States the Lutherans and Catholics have been talking since 1960. Fr. Park makes clear that it is a long  journey but in Korea we are formed to be in a hurry.

Fr.Song agrees that to heal the division we need to travel a long journey. As with bad habits, it takes more time to get rid of them then to form them.

Before the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) the Catholic Church was a lone ranger, triumphantly  disparaging Protestantism. However, the church has realized that it has been sent to the world as a sign of joy of Gospel unity.

Today's situation is a tremendous  obstacle  to evangelization. Jesus' prayer:  "That we all be one" from John 17-21 should always be the goal. We now  see the Protestants as separated brothers and sisters.

Prejudices, and misunderstandings need to go. A need to pray together, and aim for the common good. Look for what unites us and accept the things that separate us to work towards unity.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Missing the Forest for the Trees

One generation often finds understanding another difficult. We would like to have an objective standard that all would accept but it doesn't exist. A mother writing in a diocesan bulletin expresses her feelings in an area of life that needs to change but society is so intertwined, integrated with so many other areas that changing one thing changes everything.  

The writer mentions watching her grandson and the animation cartoon he was viewing on TV. She saw enough of the cartoon to get the story line. Her six-year-old grandchild was watching an animated video of the destruction of the earth because of pollution in 30 years. The starring characters were going back in time in their mini cars to prevent this from happening. These mini cars are 'Turning Mecard'  which transform into a toy robot. There are a whole series of them produced by the toy company.

The grandmother saw a number of these mini cars in the child's room and reprimanded her daughter for buying so many. The daughter told her mother that if her son doesn't keep up with the latest mini car he is not accepted by his friends, bullied and made fun of. So the mother's love for her child demands that she keep up with the latest mini car.

The grandmother doesn't understand why the society allows this to happen. When a new car comes out the mothers line up before the store from early in the morning to make sure they are able to buy the new car in the series before they sell out. The company also has videos with the cars tempting the children to buy them.

The cars are no bigger than a child's hand but cost more than 20 dollars. These toddlers are little angels, raised in a materialistic world with little else besides what they see with their eyes. Children should be given dreams and thoughts at this early age that will not disappear as they grow older.

She remembers lying on mats out side her house on warm evenings looking up at the sky. In her day they had no toys but they had fun finding things to do. Going to the river banks and catching small fish and putting them in jars. Parents need to have their children become acquainted with nature. She mentions the many things that the children can do to give them memories that will last a lifetime.

The toy company was having financial difficulty, losing money for a number of years and this was turned around with these mini cars. This is good for the economy. Consumerism, however,  takes the mind off the more important things in life and reduces happiness to acquisition of material goods.

Without a change in our thinking and the system in which we live, parents and all the citizens will be living with this dilemma for many years to come.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Mother's Love Forms Society


From the first moments we enter this world, we fall in love: our first love. From the sixth month on, we recognize faces and we have human love. The baby knows she is loved and she continues to cultivate this emotional love.

A professor of psychology, in a Kyeongyang magazine article, introduces us to a mother's love which builds the world. Like all love one wants to be with the one loving and when separated the baby cries and is unhappy. When another face appears the baby is afraid. She wants to be with the mother, this is the way the first love enters our life.

This first love can be called attachment. When the baby is nestling in the bosom of the mother she is experiencing for the first time the emotion of love. All love leaves behind traces which influences us in life. It changes our attitudes in the way we see life.

Nobody enters the world because they wanted to. This first mutual relationship will nourish trust and become foundational. Trust gives the child confidence in the world in which she is born. However, there is the possibility that the child does not receive positive feedback from the feelings of attachment needed but rather a lack of trust in its surroundings and a feeling of isolation. This will appear later in the way the child relates to others.

They have seen the results in those who enter kindergarten. Those that were affirmed in their attachment are seen in relationship with their friends mixing easy and comfortable. They are helped in their ability to relate and the level of aggressiveness is low. This appears also in entering elementary school. 

He uses the experiments by Harry Harlow, psychologist, who separated infant monkeys from their mothers after birth and raised them in another cage. They were given all the necessary food and drink but separated from the attachment to the mother and deprived of the mother's love. After 3 months they were put into a cage with other monkeys their age. In the beginning, frightened, they sat in a corner with their hands on their face. This would change gradually and they would associate but in time they became aggressive.

Harlow's experiments showed children who were raised in institutions instead of the home would have a higher degree of aggressiveness. Attachment to the mother influences the social gifts and emotional life.

This attachment has to be formed not only with the mother but with all those who come in contact with the child: father, grandfather, grandmother the nanny...they all need to build an attachment.

The professor concludes that in our society it is difficult for mothers who need to work to be the 'super moms' society wants. This fact often makes mothers feel guilty when the caring person is someone other than the mother.

In great part, the problem is a lack of interest in the nurturing of our infants in society. It's not giving the care of the child to another loving person but the guilt feeling of the mother which interferes with the forming of the attachment with the child. This is a reason society needs to take an interest in the nurturing of our young people for the good of society.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Education Of the Whole Person

What is the object of education? This topic has many answers and we know from our own experience that many of the things we learned were not taught. Many of the things taught we did not learn or forgot. Parents are often interested in educating for employment: a comfortable and respected life. However, when we add Catholic to the word education we need to have a  different understanding.

Both Catholic weeklies had articles on the new rector of a Catholic University and his understanding of education. We have over 220, 4-year colleges in Korea, and no Noble Laureates. With all these schools why do we have the highest suicide rate of the OECD countries? The rector feels the reason for this is our educational programs. We need to teach the dignity of each person made to be happy.

Catholic education needs to remember the Catholic part otherwise, we educate  only for academic excellence, worldly success.There is a need to form disciples.

Catholic education has to be education of the whole person not only of the head but also of the moral and physical. Catholic Education is not to make Nobel Laureates, prepare government officials or teach how to make a million dollars but to teach how to live life fully. Students need to be educated on how to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Universities started in 12 century Europe attached to religious houses. They began with the ethos of Christianity. The foundational philosophy was  the love for humanity. Knowledge was given to us to grow as human beings and the educational institutions were there to help.

In the present reality we have a decrease of students, drop in the population and unemployment. How to do we keep the schools open? What is the solution to the impasse we face? He sees it with learning, developing our human qualities and finding jobs.

Even if it comes to closing the doors of the university we need to stress the social teaching of the Church: common good, solidarity, and subsidiarity.


Common Good is the total of social conditions which  allow people, either as groups or as individuals to reach their fulfillment  more completely and easily.

Solidarity is the idea that we are all connected with all human beings. We belong to the world family and need to be concerned for all, granted with different degrees.

Subsidiarity is the idea that problems need to be solved at the smallest and most intimate level possible. If this is not possible then we go to another higher level etc..
  
Schools are for students and not students for the schools. We need to work together, share the difficulties, make schools what they are meant to do: educate the head, heart and body.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Present Day Cain and Abel

Cain led his brother Abel out to the field and killed him. On his return, God asked him: "Where is your  brother Abel?" In defiance and feigning ignorance answers:  "I do not  know, Am I my brother's keeper?" God lamenting: "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil!"

In the Catholic Peace Weekly column 'Word and Silence' the writer begins his meditation on the first two brothers of Scripture. Cain the oldest the farmer and Abel the shepherd. Out of jealousy, Cain kills his brother. Anger, dissatisfaction, dejection and rejection all came together to gives us the first killing in our history.

Cain and Abel can be read as the symbol of many things. Cain's disposition of anger, jealousy, disobedience, resistance, violence, murder, all showing his negativity. Abel, the opposite: virtuous, simple, both co-existing in our society. The victor is always Cain, with intrigue he will always be ahead of Abel. Descendants of Cain continue to grow. Abel didn't leave any progeny.

Darwin the founder of evolution did not find it easy to find an answer to a serious question. In the evolution of humanity the victor was always the strongest and  selfish. How did humanity continue with the virtuous and altruistic in the tree of life? How was it that in the survival of the fittest the altruist and virtuous were not weeded out?

Darwin after much thought  was able to give an answer. He went beyond the individual to the group. If you look at the groups separately you will find that  the selfish individual will be on top but when you have different groups the results are different. The selfish group is not going to overcome the one with sacrifice and altruism.

This is the way Darwin expressed this: "A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection." 

The tragedy of Cain and Abel we see repeated often in our world. In Roman mythology we have the twins Romulus and Remus, when they became adults  founded Rome. They quarreled over the site and Romulus killed his brother Remus. In Roman history, we have in the Roman Royalty killing of relations frequently. In Islam history, we have this happening often with the Sultanate dynasties killing brothers or imprisoning them. In the Joseun Dynasty, we have inter-family fighting for the throne.

In Korea recently we have the unfortunate heir to the North Korean throne who has been wandering overseas for some years, assassinated. Considered to have been killed by his half-brother the present leader of North Korea. He has been known to have killed many of his rivals in government.

In the Scriptures we have the first family given birth to another son called Seth. He may have been a mixture of the two. He concludes the article by reminding us that we may be a mixture of Cain and Abel, the good with the bad. Cain's descendants may seem to be victors;  Abel may seem to lose at times but with the continuation of the community life, love and grace will continue within the history of humanity.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Forgiving an Act of the Strong

The editors of a bulletin for priests recall a story they heard at a meeting some years ago of the Focolare Movement. (A movement following the inspiration of Jesus: 'May they all be one' respecting diversity and focusing on dialogue)

A young woman who attended one of these meetings tells the group of her difficulty in carrying out what she knew to be her calling as a Christian and how difficult it was to live that life.

One day she came across the words in the Scripture to love your enemy and meditated on the words. No one was an enemy but there were many who she did not like. One person, a senior in the company she worked, hurt her feelings and for some time they were avoiding each other. Yet she knew this was not the Christian thing to do.

She began to plan on how to remedy the situation. She hadn't greeted the person for some time so that was her first step. The next day on entering the office at work the first person she met was the individual she was going to greet, but as soon as they met,  nothing came out of her mouth and the person quickly averted her eyes. To decide to love another is difficult but to put it into action is more difficult.

That night while praying she was not going to give up her desire to show love and the next day on her way to work and on the bus she kept mumbling to herself 'good morning, good morning' over and over again. That morning before she opened the door of the office she again repeated to herself: 'good morning'.  Entering  the office and seeing the person she very awkwardly uttered: "good morning!" The individual with a puzzled expression and bewildered acknowledged the greeting.

The next day she practiced again but this time it was much easier. She continued to make the effort to greet the person without much difficulty and gradually they began to speak.

One day when they were drinking coffee together they began to talk and the individual mentioned how they had been estranged for some time... "but thanks to you we are talking again"... The person was curious in knowing what prompted her to make the effort to return to the relationship they once had. I am a Christian and she needed to start living like one was her answer.

The incident is a very simple and common event in our lives. The editors mentioned this because it was an act of the will to overcome the emotions that paralyzed her. Feelings are difficult to overcome.  

We live with many different people. We bicker, dislike, give and receive scars but to say sorry is difficult. We end up losing many acquaintances hurting and being hurt and slow in asking for forgiveness to heal the estrangement. To humbly lower ourselves and overcome our self-respect is a monumental task all necessary to find peace in our own hearts.