In last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan directed the country’s attention to a miracle in the news that was overshadowed by the Supreme Court’s recent rulings. The relatives of those killed in the shooting spree in Charleston, one by one, came to the microphone and offered heartfelt messages of mercy and forgiveness to the shooter. Noonan remarked that this act of forgiveness was breath-taking and—in my words—supernatural. It was a show of strength far more powerful than the news of terrorism and power struggles, and it’s what our country needs far more of.
This community of faith in South Carolina knew that forgiveness is not optional; it’s central to the faith that they’ve chosen to profess in Christ. And they held firm to their faith despite the obvious initial pain that must’ve come from extending such radical forgiveness to a man who’d taken so much from them. Their example begs the question: if we were in their position, would we have extended the same forgiveness?
Virtue, so contrary to many of the impulses of our fallen human nature, must be learned and practiced to take root. As the primary educators of our children, how can we teach this forgiveness at home? How can we help our children see the power of Christ’s mercy that’s infinitely stronger than violence, revenge, and the struggle to power that we’re all too inclined to fall into?
Perhaps in this Year of Mercy we might consider if we’ve really allowed ourselves to experience fully Christ’s mercy in the sacrament of confession, as we cannot give what we do not have. Now might be the time to take a real look at our inner life to see if there are sins that we have avoided confessing out of fear, pride, or embarrassment. We can ask ourselves if we’ve really celebrated this sacrament of mercy as a family, rejoiced in God’s forgiveness together, and made it a priority in our schedule.
Also, we might want to take a look at how we’ve been catechizing our children. Most of our kids know that Jesus loves them. But do they know how much it costs Him to love us? “Love” has been getting a lot of press lately. Now might be a good time to review as a family what–who–Love is: Jesus, who suffered a terrifying death for us. As His disciples, are we prepared to suffer for the good of the other, especially if the other has hurt us profoundly?
This tiny faith community in South Carolina has given us a tremendous example and reminder of authentic Christianity and the greatness of God’s mercy. This Year of Mercy is the perfect time to honor their example and revisit and promote forgiveness in the home.
Copyright 2015 Meg Matenaer.
Photo by AuntLaya (2010) via Morguefile.