Gratitude and Forgiveness – A Parishioner Reflection

Father Solanus Casey, the humble Capuchin Friar and simplex priest, who was canonized on November 18, 2017, in Detroit, said: “Poor humanity’s sorrow—ingratitude. Humanity’s outstanding weakness seems to be a thoughtless want of appreciation for the uncountable blessing by which Almighty God is surrounding it. . . .”  Until recently, we in the United States have been particularly fortunate.  However, the hateful language of the past couple of years, especially during the election campaigns and the vindictiveness of protestors and counter-protestors all over the country has changed the conversation and has taken our country in an entirely different direction.  The terrifying events of the last several weeks. . .the lone gambler in Las Vegas who planned, apparently for a whole year, his attack on a group of strangers . . .sitting in a comfortable hotel room pouring bullets down on people he couldn’t even distinguish, killing 59, and injuring more than 500 others—the disaffected 29 year old immigrant admitted under the “Diversity Visa Program” who plotted for months for his rampage in a rented truck through a shade bike path in New York, killing as many runners, walkers and cyclists he could.  Total strangers all . . .shouting for the glory of “his God”. . . then the disturbed young veteran who took his guns to a rural church in Texas killing 26 men, women and children, and wounding at least twenty more. . . returning to his vehicle where more guns were stored to continue!  Lately, a suicide bomber in New York City who, fortunately, was not successful in a plan to kill many.

At least two of these events are directly connected with a radical version of Islam which is a complete distortion of the peaceful religion established centuries ago by Prophet Mohammed. Hate breeds hate, breeds more hate.  Only love extended to God and to neighbor wherever the neighbor is found, can change all of that.  The disastrous acts we are experiencing in the United States and Canada now are the kinds of events people in other parts of the world have been suffering throughout the centuries.  The goals of our forefathers were to change all that; they left home and loved ones, fought and died to achieve the freedom we have so long cherished.  We must return to those goals; we must pray for our country and we must love our God and our neighbor regardless of the color of his/her skin, rich and poor, schooled and unschooled, religious and irreligious.

Again, there is the tragic case of a Pakistani Catholic Christian woman, Asiya Noreen Bibi, better known as Asia Bibi.  In June of 2009, she was harvesting berries in a field near her native village in Punjab, Pakistan with other women.  An argument broke out. One accused her of blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, a charge she vigorously denied.  Asia was arrested and jailed. Her case was heard in the local District Court.  In November of 2010, she was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.  An overflow crowd in the courtroom roared approval, shouting: “Kill her! Kill her! Kill her!”  Asia has been in jails in various locations since 2009.  Petitions have been filed from all over the world in her behalf.  Pope Benedict XVI, called for dismissal of the charges.  Many Muslim leaders called for her release.  Two Pakistani leaders championed her case– a Christian minister, Shahbaz Bhai, and a Muslim politician, Salmaan Taseer, were assassinated for their efforts in her behalf.  Hate breeds hate!

Asia is married and a mother of five children.  From her cell last year at Easter, she composed a prayer: “Resurrected Lord, allow your daughter Asia to rise again with you.  Break my chains, make my heart free and go beyond those bars, and accompany my soul so that it is close to those who are dear to me, and that it remains always near you.  Do not abandon me in the day of trouble, do not deprive me of your presence.  You who have suffered the tortures of the cross, alleviate my suffering.  Hold me near you Lord Jesus.  On the day of your resurrection, Jesus, I want to pray for my enemies, for those who hurt me.  I pray for them and I beg you to forgive them for the harm they have done me.  I ask you, Lord, to remove all obstacles so that I may obtain the blessing of freedom.  I ask you to protect me and protect my family.”

Hate breeds hate!  Only love can save us and our fellow human beings.  Can we not remember the need for gratitude and forgiveness in our daily lives, and put aside the small slights and humiliations that come to all of us?  Can we not listen respectfully to the ideas and beliefs of those who see things differently?  Can we not reach out to neighbor and stranger with the gentleness and hope of Asia?  MMD.

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