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Footsteps to Follow: Nature is to forgive

Many people are saying that the world is rather frightening. There are too many areas of division in our world. From controversies around masks to the societal issues of discrimination, our divisions have ranged from conversations to riots. The two emotions seem to be fear and anger. Individually these emotions are healthy and powerful; however, when combined, they become volatile and explosive.

This is further complicated with our young people. The current generation has known nothing but fear. Born around 2000, young people’s entire lived history includes both the attacks on the World Trade Center and the war against terrorism. They have grown up with a realization that all can be friend or enemy. As with the COVID virus, anyone in their neighborhood or family can inflict death upon them. This fear has been building their entire lives. Thus, they are angry because no one wants to live in fear for that long.

Anger, as an emotion of change, realizes that what is happening should not be “normal.” When people state that wearing masks and social distancing is the “new normal,” other people become angry. Our current predicament is not normal. The fear we live in is not normal. The division we are experiencing on all these levels is not normal. The boxes into which we place people are not normal.

So, what then is normative? The moral law is based on the common principle of natural law. Who are we at the core of our being? The basic building block of our “being-ness” is that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. We share the same dignity and are made for community. All the plants and animals of creation are good. When Eve and Adam were brought together by God, it was found to be very good. The love shared between Adam and Eve was perfect until sin entered the world, and then we first experienced division from God and each other.

Even after “the Fall,” God still loved us. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10 NABRE). Even though we are unfaithful, “He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2Tim 2:13). Thus, forgiveness is natural and needed. When Cain killed Abel, when Saul sought David’s life, when David put Uriah on the front lines, and in countless other examples found in Sacred Scripture and in history, forgiveness was necessary because we are fallen.

We cannot rewrite the past, nor can we judge the past with present standards. Imagine being judged today for actions done as a toddler, teenager or young adult. But if we experience forgiveness, we can look at the past, realize the wrong done, and try to never repeat the action nor repay evil for evil. This moves us forward and helps us become more of who we are called to be: the Family of God.

There was a man walking with a shirt which read, “Love Will Win”. Love already has won as He hung upon the Cross and stated, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:24). Jesus conquered sin through sacrificial love. We are called to do the same. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). A world without forgiveness is truly frightening.

Rev. Brian Van Fossen, pastor, St. Joseph the Worker Parish

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