Opening Our Hearts and Working for Peace

By Nancy Brouillard McKenzie, Ignatian Volunteer

The Sign of Peace during the Diamond Jubilee Mass in St Columban’s Home, Chuncheon City, South Korea on April 26, 2014.

As a child, I thought Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Calendar was “off season” for the Church and Advent, Lent, and Easter were the only important “seasons.” Eventually, a maturing faith prevailed.

Ordinary Time invites us to more deeply understand and appreciate the life of Jesus. Pope Francis closes the Jubilee Year of Mercy on November 20, 2017, and Ordinary Time ends with the transition to Advent on November 26, 2017.

Ordinary Time allows me to update myself, listen and practice what Jesus wants me to do.

I would have loved to be one of the disciples listening to Jesus clearly and succinctly explaining forgiveness in today’s gospel:

“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him;

and if he repents, forgive him.

And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying,

 ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him” (Luke 17: 3-4).

Jesus wants us to practice unconditional forgiveness again and again. He treats the sorrow of a sinner with pardon and compassion.

There is no delay or weakness in forgiving. Instead, Jesus unequivocally tells us to forgive a person who says, “I am sorry.” That verse is overwhelmingly powerful. If we embrace forgiveness, our faith will expand abundantly. Not surprisingly, forgiveness removes the pain of hurt and moves us to a greater loving relationship with Jesus and our brothers and sisters.

Last summer, Father Peter Woodruff and I talked extensively about Columbans on Mission, his book of stories from Columban priests, Sisters, lay missionaries, and the lay men and women with whom they work.

In “A Place of Joy before Dying,” Columban Sister Nora Weisman SSC shows how the power of forgiveness was crucial to Saint Columban’s Nursing Home in Chuncheon, South Korea. When her project was ready to start, a major oversight almost ended it: the backing of the local farmers was missing. Protesters at the building site delayed the project.

At a community meeting, a local farmer’s fiery speech brought attendees to their feet. That prevented peacefully discussing the project. Eventually, Saint Columban’s Nursing Home opened. Later, a neighborhood representative asked Sister Nora to visit a terminally-ill neighbor. On her visit, she immediately recognized the farmer who had “sabotaged” the community meeting two years earlier.

Sister Nora instantly assessed his needs and arranged for multiple health care visits to him. After a few weeks, he passed away. In time, she and others openly welcomed former resistors to Saint Columban’s Nursing Home.

Resisting forgiveness prevents us from growing in love and being merciful disciples. When we forgive, joy overcomes us and allows us to change the wrong. Constantly updating our faith restores harmony to relationships.

With more people around the world actively forgiving others instead of offering resistance, sustained peace could begin.

At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the Allies of World War I signed an armistice with Germany to end fighting and later, a peace treaty. However, World War I was not the war to end all wars. Since 1918, the world has witnessed many other wars and hostilities.

Lamentably, we now clearly and sometimes immediately see the faces of warriors and the victims of starvation, brutality, and death. Appallingly missing are forgiveness and mercy as ways to increase spirituality, defuse violence, start reconciliation, and open peaceful dialogue among the parties.

Peaceful dialogue would let us hear Jesus commanding us to forgive and would steer us toward peace. Without love and forgiveness, we will continue to witness hate and vengeance.

Weekly Reflection on Justice is produced by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting Columban Missionaries. We hope these reflections help to guide you on your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.