a priest's musings on the journey

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More Reflections on Archbishop Robin Eames' Talks at Shrinemont

I was able to hear two more talks given by Archbishop Eames this morning. Of course I didn't find any paper on which to take notes, so I can only pass on the things that have stayed in my memory.

He began by making some comments on the process of reconciliation. The first point being that reconciliation is a process. It takes time- time to listen to both sides and time to understand the positions and questions of each side. The process is complicated by the fact that people have varying degrees of openness to being reconciled. Thus, despite the best efforts of a peace maker, there might be times when the best thing to do for peace is for the parties to have heard and understood each other- and being unable to find a place where they can agree or meet... to walk apart. That sounds counter-intuitive to me- except for the truth that in the end it is God who reconciles, and God already knows the end of the journey and God already sees the Day of Peace when all will be reconciled in God. So, we can let people go and entrust them into the hands of God.

One other powerful insight for me was the revelation that sometimes what seems like a failure to us is in fact an opportunity for God to act. Related to the idea of failure, is the idea that sometimes the peacemaker is called to be the fall guy- to suffer on behalf of those who need to be reconciled. I don't think this means that God delights in causing us pain. Rather, that God sanctifies our suffering, so that through it, God's redeeming, transforming grace is able to flow. Of course the Cross and Christ's suffering there is the supreme example of reconciliation being accomplished through the suffering of the peacemaker.

The Cross also is an example of one other important part of reconciliation: forgiveness. Even as he was being murdered by human beings, Christ asked God to forgive those who were causing his pain and death. Forgiveness is hard work, however. I know from my own experience that I struggle with it. I struggle to forgive the one who was the cause of my son's death. I struggle to forgive those who refuse to allow holy gay and lesbian couples marry. I struggle to forgive those who refuse to ordain holy gay and lesbians who have been called by God to serve the Church. Sometimes I think I have forgiven them- and then, out of the blue I feel outraged at them. Forgiveness doesn't make the pain go away; it isn't forgetting about the offense. But it is essential to healing and reconciliation. I know in my own case, that I can not be a good priest until I really have forgiven the one who killed my son- until I truly forgive those who are homophobic. But I have for so long not known how to do that.

Archbishop Eames told the story of Gordon Wilson, whose daughter was killed by a bombing on Remembrance Day in Enniskillen, Ireland. The complete story may be read here. What spoke to me the most was the ending of the story, when Mr. Wilson was interviewed and asked how he felt about those who had killed his daughter. His reply was that he held no ill will towards them, and that he forgave them. of course his forgiveness was a powerful weapon for peace- to use an awful phrase- but what was more impressive was the question the archbishop asked... "I don't know if I could have done that. What would you have done?" And I sat there knowing what I would do- and knowing that I needed to find a way to forgive.

And then the Archbishop said something that liberated me. I don't remember the details of the story- but I do remember him saying, when we can not forgive, we can trust in God who forgives both me and the one that has offended me. Christ died for both of us. Both of us are sinners who have been redeemed by the love and compassion of God- and in the forgiveness that God has for us, we can find the compassion to at least pray that God would forgive them- and take steps from there.

Well, I have rambled in a stream of unstructured free fall here- and I am not sure how I should stop- except to ask that you would pray for me a sinner. Pray that I will be able to find the grace and compassion to forgive as God has forgiven me.

Pray for peace.
Pray for reconciliation.
Pray for God's compassion to overthrow the reign of hate and evil in the world.
:: posted by Padre Rob+, 1:53 PM



Thanks for your reflections; I found these talks very moving as well - and I hope to pilfer quite a bit of Lord Eames' wisdom in some talks and sermons as well ... I wish we had connected at S.M. as I also have a blog http://santospopsicles.blogspot.com, and am down the road in the capitol city...

Peace to you,

Blogger Peter Carey, at 5:51 PM  

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