by Jan Lewis
Four hundred and fifty words. That’s my word count for my leaven column. How can I say what needs to be said in 450 words?
I weep for our great country. I weep for our beautiful state. I weep for the thousands who may someday come to our door and find it closed because the church has been pushed into a box, stripped of its place in society. When did the tide turn and pull away? When did truth and values and love become dirty words?
Pope Benedict XVI in his Lenten message urged us to “be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works” (Heb 10:24). That good is “whatever gives, protects and promotes life, brotherhood and communion. Responsibility towards others . . . concern for others means being aware of their needs.”
He warns us of the danger that our hearts can become hardened by a sort of “spiritual anesthesia” which numbs us to the suffering of others. “What hinders this humane and loving gaze towards our brothers and sisters? Often it is the possession of material riches and a sense of sufficiency, but it can also be the tendency to put our own interests and problems above all else. We should never be incapable of ‘showing mercy’ towards those who suffer. Our hearts should never be so wrapped up in our affairs and problems that they fail to hear the cry of the poor.”
When I pledged my life to Christ through baptism and confirmation, I pledged to subordinate my personal rights and freedoms for the good of my brothers and sisters. Our Founding Fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” What happened to those pledges? What happened to our understanding that united we stand, divided we fall?
As I write this column, we are mid- way through the season of Lent. The readings today call us to forgiveness. We are to understand that we stand no higher than the person next to us. We are told that we will only be forgiven as we forgive others, without condition.
I can’t simply forgive the ones I love; I must forgive the ones I don’t love — the immigrant, the drug addict, the liberal or conservative, the poor person that I judge is living on the government dole.
If we fail to forgive, to love, to understand, to show mercy and compassion, then we have failed Christ. Our church will lose its relevance, our charities will close their doors, and our voice will grow silent. I could have said it all in just three words — “And Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35).