This morning at daily Mass, Father Don Ahles mentioned an article by Norman Wirzba in which he mused on the thought that we might be able to now “declare the end of ‘Christian America.’” The article speaks of the fact that we in America often portray ourselves as Christians through our speech, through our prayers, and through our presence at this or that local. Yet, when we look at the actions, at the deeds of these Christians, we find that they don’t line up with the Christian line of thought presented in the Gospels.
Although voters may speak piously and rather vaguely about Christian values and ideals, polls and election results communicate clearly this is a nation consumed by fear, anger and suspicion – none of which are Christian virtues.
Especially during this part of our political timeline we begin to see people who claim to be Catholic or Christian, yet they do play on those things. The mudslinging begins. This one can’t be trusted. This one isn’t really ‘American.’ This one lied. On and on it goes. The thing is, we don’t seem very loving at all when we talk about politics. We talk about how that we do need to vote, but then we turn lose these insults against the candidate we don’t like, and laud the one we do.. even though often we seem to be supporting those people who are truly against our faith entirely. I think tomorrow's Gospel reading kind of sets the stage for the next line that caught my eye in his article.
[...]From a scriptural point of view, it is all rubbish. What matters is not what you say but how you live. And from a Christian point of view, nothing matters more than living a life that is inspired by God’s love for everyone.
A life inspired by God’s love for everyone. Scripture affirms that one of the ways we should be recognized is by our love. You know the song? They will know we are Christian by our love? What does God’s love look like? Jesus has some pretty strong words to say about that. Forgiveness. That’s what God’s love looks like, first and foremost. Jesus says to Peter that we must forgive not just seven times, but seventy seven fold (70X7 times.) In the world of Biblical numerology seventy times seven does not represent a literal 490 times.. though that in and of itself would be impressive… rather it represents an infinite number.. forgiveness without limit.
I got to thinking about Lamech, the son of Cain. Cain was seen as a hard man, but Lamech was the epitome of anger and abuse. He claims to have killed a man just for wounding him, a young man too out of anger. Lamech made the audacious claim that if the death of Cain would be avenged seven times, then the death of Lamech would be seventy and sevenfold. In his world forgiveness was never given. Anger was returned for anger. Hate for hate. Death for a wound. Not only did he return what was given, he multiplied it. How in contrast that is to God’s love? How far has he gone from God to be in such a world that does not forgive, but amplifies the hate and evil that is present.
Jesus on the other hand, offers us a world where all is forgiven. That not only does God forgive perfectly, but we are challenged to do the same. That’s what love looks like. It means offering your love to everyone regardless of what they do to you. We’ve come a long way away from that message haven’t we? We’ve begun to look less like Christians in this country, and more like followers of Lamech. Our television shows become more catty, more snarky, more materialistic. Just recently a movie was released in which the ‘hero’ was a man of violence, a man who harmed others, who was almost as much devil as he was avenger. It sold out. Record sells even. Who are we following? Our actions speak of that. Our shows, our radio, our movies.. all show what we truly believe.
Then comes something that is very near to my heart though, something that fits right in with that unlimited forgiveness of God… the author goes on to say:
What about the refugees and immigrants who are being refused at our borders and made to feel unwelcome in our land, or the homeless (many of them ill) who do not have a home and proper protection from the elements, or the prison inmates (many of them African-American) who are treated like the garbage of society? [..]God is asking the nations about their public policy, not their verbal piety, because the true test of Christianity has only ever been the test of love.
There is the crux of the matter isn’t it? To forgive as God forgives we have to forgive these people too. We seem to be holding grudges against the ‘least of these.’ Some of those grudges from people they may not even know. They’re muslim right? Lesbian? Gay? They are drug dealers and prostitutes. They are vagabonds who don’t bother to work for themselves. They.. they.. they.. we like to have an other to hate don’t we? Yet, Christ told us to forgive not just those people we like, those we are comfortable with.. but even the enemy.. the other.. the they. Are you ready to do that? Our nation may not be a Christian nation.. to be honest, it may never have been a truly Christian one… but you and I challenged to be Christian regardless of what our nation is. Are you ready to forgive? To offer God’s mercy and grace to everyone? Not just those we choose to be worthy? Are we ready to love like God loves? That’s what we must learn to do if we want to keep using the word Christian to describe ourselves.. to lift up our own life… to sacrifice ourselves.. to go to our own Cross.. for everyone, not just those we want to choose, but those God puts before us, period.
His servant and yours,
“He must increase, I must decrease.”