Good afternoon and hello to my new friends in DC! Your invitation to break bread and word together with you this afternoon in WHIMM “enlarges the tent” for us and for All who live inclusion – in & from this independent sacramental movement. We “Enlarge the Space of the Tent” here and now through this Eucharist welcoming All and sending us forth to be the Church and to do the work of justice and peace.
There's a Synod of Bishops about to happen in Rome beginning October 4th. Pope Francis has named it “Communion, Participation, Mission.” In preparation, Catholics across the world held listening sessions last year. Time and time again we expressed our desire to “Enlarge the Space of [Our] Tent” so that we welcome and include All of Us. So that the equality with which we honor one another inside our tent (and gardens) flows freely outside our open spaces to be the Christ consciousness and to do the work of social justice.
Thanks to you, the Community gathered today in person and on screen. Your good will and hospitality is a powerful force. Thanks to the skill of tech wizards among us who make our presence to one another possible.
We are exactly 230 miles apart just now, you at R Street in Washington DC to me in
Hertford NC. Add to that the distance of our Community with us on Zoom. I think of St Phoebe, whom we honor today, as she physically traveled over 3 times that distance, 750 miles from Cenchrea to Rome to deliver the second Reading we hear today. Current biblical scholarship concludes that Phoebe was more than a messenger. It's possible that Pheobe herself participated in writing what is known as Paul's Letter to the Romans. In all probability, she read the letter to the Community and therefore had a powerful influence over its interpretation.
(https://youtu.be/89TeHOHbell?si=Udke-19VvJsCB9G ) Dr. Beverly Roberts Gaventa
The letter is a powerful message of peace: We belong to God!
The title of my homily is Forgive All Ways, as the author of Sirach and Jesus in Matthew insist. As Phoebe and Paul persist in the Letter to the Romans. How fitting that these three readings come together this liturgical year during the Season of Creation. Forgiveness is intrinsic to sustain Creation; it's taught in most world religions. Yet, I must confess that when I hear Jesus' injunction to forgive “seventy times seven”, I at first get tired out! Maybe you too have a similar first reaction. Must we really forgive offenders regardless of the level of pain they cause us – from the relatively small matter of rudeness, perhaps – to the tragic loss of a life cut short – to a devastating betrayal in a relationship? With all of that, it seems we're constantly confronted with the unavoidable practice of forgiveness simply to stay alive!
And yet we must forgive to stay alive, that is to benefit our selves in body, mind, and spirit. Science proves the psychological and physiological benefits of forgiving others.. Findings in study after study suggest that learning to forgive improves overall wellness and protects us against future upsets. We become emotionally stronger, experience greater confidence, with fewer feelings of depression because we become increasingly optimistic when we forgive. (PositivePsychology.com)
We all know stories of heroic forgiveness, like Scarlett Lewis, the mother of Jesse Lewis who died in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. (www.eomega.org, Forgiving the Unforgivable.) She and many others grieving the violent loss of loved ones speak of the self healing process of forgiving the unforgivable. When the task seems impossible, we can be encouraged by clinical evidence that “Even thinking about forgiving an offender” improves our cardiovascular and nervous systems. (Wiltvliet, Ludwig & Laan, 2001)
Learning to forgive is a process. It does not mean we excuse a person's responsibility for causing harm. It means we clear space for our personal freedom. So let's do that – quietly, silently ~ you and I. Think of forgiving one person … one group … letting go one situation … one occasion that needs release.
Imagine the goodness of your intention extending its energy outward. Silently send that
goodness to the person on your left …. and the person on your right .. the person who may be in front of you …. and the person behind you.
How might you name that goodness? Is it the gift of peace growing? Understanding? Compassion?
Know that your goodness affects you and all around you. You and all the Universe.
Open Sharing ~ Thank you for listening. Please offer your thoughts on today's liturgy. What do you experience in the readings and reflection?