In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Why? Inchu? Pourquoi? Por qué? Lesh? Lama? Why? A simple word. A single syllable that when uttered, when heard, when thought of, can have a wide range of reactions. A police officer asking, “why were you driving so fast?” A parent asking a child, “why aren’t you listening?” A priest asking, “why don’t you come to Church?” A parent asking, “why did my child get sick?” A friend asking, “why didn’t you hurt me?” Or an inquiring 2 year old repeatedly and incessantly asking why, why, why, why… to everyone and about everything. A single syllable word, which can have many reactions and just as many answers.
There is a beautiful saying which teaches us that “a person can have a million reasons not to do one thing, or they can have one reason to do a million things.” And this perfectly sums up and reflects on the idea of our “why’s” In the 17th century a philosophical ideology was created by Blaise Pascal which was known as Pascals’ Wager. His basic argument was, we as humans should believe in God regardless of His existence, because we have more to gain (eternal life) vs. lose (eternal damnation). This became much more popular in the 20th century and to this day impacts many of us, because “what have you got to lose by believing in God – so why not?” And it is unfortunate that this mentality continues to fuel why many of us, our friends and our family members “attend” Church or “believe” in God. For too many of us our “why” to coming to Church, believing in God or even being kind towards others is based in fear. Countless times I am asked, “Der Hayr if I do “x” does that mean I go to hell or that God will punish me?” We fear God and therefore, we act according to “his commandments.”
Let us take this one step further, many of us do not believe in God or do not express our faith because of fear of what will people say. “What would people think of me if they knew I believed in God or that I prayed?” The Pharisees asked Jesus, by what authority he was teaching, were in response asked a question about John’s baptism. And we read how they were afraid of the people. “If we say from heaven, he [Jesus] will say Why then did you not believe him?…” But if we say from men – the people might revolt because John was seen as a prophet. Regardless which they chose, they were afraid of how others would react to them. The “why” of our life, therefore I ask, which impacts all facets of our life, all our decisions, all our choices from how we raise our children to how we act with our friends, how we treat ourselves and others – is based in fear? The inquiring 2 year old in me therefore is asking, “why?” Why do I believe and act and live out of fear?
The prophet Isaiah reminds us, “for you have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge;” (v.10) My dear brothers and sisters, our why for our actions and belief should be transformed from fear to trust. Trusting God who is our salvation, who is our rock and our refuge. I trust God that is why I follow His commandments. I trust God that is why I use His teachings to live my life. I trust in God that is why I love, why I hope, why I repent.
Last week, I shared a video (found below) on social media, which I am sure many of you saw or heard of on television, where a young woman, Amber Guyger, was found guilty of murder. And the brother of the victim, Brandt Jean, fighting back tears and emotion in court said, “I forgive you. I don’t even want you to go to jail. But if you really are sorry for what you’ve done, than I want for you to give your life over to Christ…because that’s what God would want from me.” This young man, who has just lost his brother, seeing that even the courts found this person guilty, turned and said I forgive you, I love you. His why? Because that is what God would want.
My dear brothers and sisters, as St. Paul begins today’s reading, “we must examine ourselves” (v.5) to understand clearly where our why lies. Is it in the fear or in the trust? Is it God or is it people? No, we cannot forget that every action has a reaction – the godliness will bring blessings and sin will bring punishment. However, why should we act godly, believe in the right, if not for the love and hope we find by placing our trust in Christ Jesus – who led by example, forgave and served us calling us to do likewise. Here is the key why our trust must lay in God. Once we have figured out our why – which is founded in our trust and love in God, next we have to focus on therefore, how.
For this, today’s Gospel and the letter of St. Paul clearly teaches us, in verses 11-13 “mend your ways [meaning first repent by examining yourself and understanding your why], heed my appeal [listen and read the Holy Scriptures, the teachings of God and the Church], agree with one another [come to Church and pray together], live in peace [gather in fellowship] and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you.” My dear brothers and sisters, it is all right here plainly written. Do we believe in God? Great. Do we believe in what Christ Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, did for us by coming down and being crucified. Being buried and raised again on the third day? Great. Do we believe that through baptism, through the Holy Spirit, we receive that same life – love, light and hope given to all humanity and creation? Wonderful. And do we want for that light and love to spread to all corners of the world? Even better. Then we must be the ones to do so. We must be the light we so desperately desire to see in this world. John F. Kennedy beautifully once stated, “Here on earth, God’s work must surely be our own.” Yes my dears, God’s work must be through our hands, feet, mouth and ears. Because we are created in His Divine image – full of the potential to create, build up, light up and fill this world with His eternal love through the way we treat ourselves and each other.
Why? Because God did it for me. Why? Because that is what God desires for me and from me. Why? Because I fully trust and love God as he has loved me. Therefore my dears, let us begin by examining ourselves, our actions, thoughts and words. Let us examine whether we fear God or fear people? Then begin changing that to trusting God and taking His trust, hope, love and light to all peoples of this world. Let us greet one another with a holy kiss – voghchuyn – not just here in Badarak but truly and with deep affection out in the streets. For Christ is revealed in amongst us – Christ is revealed in us – Christ is revealed through us. Amen!
Video of Forgiveness…