Delivered after the reading at Saturday evening's Vespers during last weekend's deacon formation weekend...
My Brothers & Sisters:
When I was a boy, I was afraid of my own shadow. Bullies seemed to gravitate to me like moths to a flame. One bully in particular stalked me for several years when I was in my early teens. His name was Damien (name changed to protect the innocent and the guilty). Damien was an oversized kid who loved to taunt anyone who he considered wimpy. I was just that kid. I had red hair. As many of you’ve seen from pictures of that era, I looked like a girl.
One day, I was fishing at a local lake when I heard Damien was coming to beat me up. My dad heard the threat at a brother’s baseball game and came to my rescue. He placed a can of mace in my hands and told me to spray it in Damien’s eyes when he started to pound on me. I was scared to death.
Then came Damien. There was screaming. There was punching. Then out came the mace and with all of the fury, hate and rage in my heart, I let him have it. It was an ugly seen. One I’m not proud of now.
Damien and I encountered each other numerous times after that. The hate in my heart never faded.
Fast-forward 35 years. I’m on Facebook and I see Damien make a thoughtful comment on a friend’s Facebook page. Fear swelled up inside my heart. Then came the hate and the rage. I was 13 again and there was my nemesis glaring back at me in the light of a computer screen.
"O Lord, Do not turn my heart to things that are wrong, to evil deeds with men who are sinners" (Ps 141:4). My trust is in you and your example.
I’ve always felt that sin is like a broken record stuck in a groove it cannot get out of. There are moments in our lives, or things in our past that chain us down and won’t let us go. There are feelings, unresolved issues; the old selfish you that still haunts the you striving to be humble and selfless. Only by the grace of God are we able to get unstuck from this often times sinful behavior: anger, hate, fear, lust, greed, pride… the list goes on.
We believers in Christ know there is a Judgment Day, a day when we will be called to account for all of our sins.
But that day is not today. We hope.
We believers also know how to interpret the delay of this judgment. It’s called forbearance, and it is the gift of time to repent and be saved.
We all sin. We all need to repent. We all can be graced with forgiveness.
"I pour out my troubles before him; I tell him all my distress while my sprit faints within me" (Psalm 142:3).
Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Forgiveness is a gift we not only give others, but we give to ourselves.
After seeing Damien’s Facebook post, I took a bold leap of faith. I ignored old feelings and wrote him a message requesting his friendship and forgiveness for the terrible things we did to each other oh so many years ago. He responded almost immediately, admitted it was time to let go of the past and be friends.
A giant weight lifted off my shoulders. I had been bearing this hatred, this grudge for over a quarter of a century. And just like that, it vanished.
God works in beautiful and mysterious ways… "How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!" (Romans 11:33).
As many of you know, I love the musical group U2. There’s a song that I’m reminded of called “Stuck In A Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of.”
It opens with a line that can be taken as a motto for life to all followers of Christ, “I am not afraid of anything in this world. There’s nothing you can throw at me that I haven’t already heard. I’m just trying to find a decent melody. A song that I can sing. My own company.”
Judgment Day will come. For those unprepared for the day due to human hubris, Judgment Day will INDEED be Judgment Day. But rejoice. The gift of time allows for us to ask God for his loving and healing grace to wash away all of our sins. Then every knee will bend in the presence of our Lord and Savior.
On that day, Judgment Day will become a day of rejoicing as we sing songs of praise and celebrate as a community of believers with the Lamb who saved us from the pit of destruction. And proclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord!” (Phillipians 2:11)