Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 28, 2015
I couldn’t figure out was happening when the families of the victims of the South Carolina “church shooter” addressed him through closed circuit TV and gave what amounted to “impact statements.” It didn’t appear that he had even entered a plea, and yet, from their remarks, it was clear that he was presumed guilty. And then a reporter interjected that this kind of immediate face-to-face contact with those left with the pain of surviving crime is a process unique to South Carolina. While I still wondered how this squares with “innocent until proven guilty,” I quickly embraced the practice as I heard family after family describe their pain and then go on to say: “But I forgive you!” Their loving gesture, one of the purest elements of Christianity, became more newsworthy than the mass murders.
These disciples were able to face this young man who had lost his personal battle with evil and win the war with three little words: I FORGIVE YOU! This was one of the most powerful, dramatic, and sincere expressions of faith I have ever witnessed. I FORGIVE YOU! Very powerful words made possible because of very strong faith.
Last Sunday, we enjoyed a glimpse of the power that rested in Jesus. He could calm a violent storm. This week’s Gospel speaks to the power of faith demonstrated by Jairus, a Synagogue official, as well as an unnamed woman. Both, motivated by their faith in the healing power of the Lord, reached out to Him; Jairus very publicly, the woman with a gesture that went unnoticed by all but Jesus. The power of her faith actually drew Jesus’s healing power out from Him.
The tragic events that unfolded in Charleston, South Carolina, showed us the power of prejudice and irrational hatred. But it is important to remember that evil was ALMOST overpowered by the warm reception that a Christian community offered to a stranger. The accused shooter is reported to have said that he almost abandoned his mission of triggering a race war because of the kindness his targeted victims showed to him. Maybe if he had been able to spend just a little more time doing Bible study with these good people, things might have been different. Sadly, the power of their goodness did not have enough of an opportunity to convert him, and he drew a gun and began to kill. But, up to this point, he has failed in his mission because the power of faith…the power of forgiveness…was so immediate, so public, and so genuine that it has calmed the storm.
I FORGIVE YOU! Words spoken in a courtroom during victims’ impact statements have had the same effect as the words spoken by Jesus as a violent storm threatened to sink a fishing boat: QUIET! BE STILL! Some people have an opportunity to invoke the power of these words very publicly…others…like the unnamed woman, make private gestures. In either case, the power of faith always prevails against evil. What kind of impact will you make in the world during the coming week?