Simplicity clears the path to forgiveness

Kathleen Giffin

WORD MADE FLESH

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – November 8, 2015
1 Kings 17.10-16 | Psalm 146 | Hebrews 9.24-28 | Mark 12.38-44
October 26, 2015

Richard Rohr tells the story of meeting a group of women in a refugee camp in Guatemala in the early 1980's. They had been displaced from their homes in El Salvador as a result of the civil war, and all had lost family members, mostly husbands and sons.

He recounted their weekly practice of walking and praying the Stations of the Cross that they had created in the camp.

What was remarkable was that, as they followed the road to the crucifixion, their prayers were for those who had tortured and killed their loved ones.

He attributed their capacity for forgiveness to the simple lifestyles they had. There was little in the way of material possessions, nothing saved for the future; a way of living that required sharing was cultivated by their poverty.

'She out of her poverty, has put in everything she had.' - Mark 12.44

'She out of her poverty, has put in everything she had.'

Mark 12.44

They all had learned to trust God for their daily bread; their lives were a beautiful illustration of the Our Father prayer.

Rohr described them as people who had "little to protect" and pointed to that fact as the source of the freedom they exhibited, the freedom to forgive, the freedom to trust, the freedom to surrender their lives into God's hands.

I am reminded of that phrase, "little to protect" in reading this Sunday's Scripture readings.

We hear the stories of two poor widows, the one who gave the last of her meal and oil to feed the prophet Elijah, and the one who put her two copper coins into the treasury. Both exemplify a kind of freedom, the freedom to give what little they have in the service of hospitality and almsgiving. Their ability to trust God is due at least in part to the fact that they had little to protect.

Aquinas named wealth, power, pleasure and honour as the false gods, substitutes for God that take our hearts and time as we pursue them. They are, to some degree for virtually all of us, the treasure we store up, that which gives a sense of security and safety. They become that which we must protect.

Whether it is possessions that need our attention, our good name that must be polished now and then, or our addictions and pleasant satisfactions that are indulged in, any can become a substitute for trust in God's care.

FREEDOM OF FORGIVENESS

All can create the bondage that prevents the kind of freedom the women in Guatemala demonstrated by their forgiveness.

It makes me wonder about those things which I protect, that which occupies my heart and time. They are evidence of my fear and lack of trust. They are stumbling blocks on the journey to surrender.

Most of it I take for granted; it is just the way life is in this part of the world. It does indeed seem true it is harder for we who are rich to enter the Kingdom of God.

(Kathleen Giffin kgif@telus.net)