Sunday, November 18, 2012

here goes everything

May you enkindle the wills of all,
so that we may overcome the barriers that divide, 
cherish the bonds of mutual charity, understand others, 
and pardon those who have done us wrong.
-Pope John XXIII

The Acholi people of Northern Uganda have a ritual of reconciliation called mato oput.
Mato oput occurs when two clans bring together the perpetrator and the victim of a crime, and through a day-long series of rituals they restore harmony between the individuals and the community affected by the hurt and seek to replace the injustice with peace.

During my research work on Friday, I encountered this ritual for the first time, and I was struck by the simple but compelling way in which is was described.
It made me reflect on how short I sell apologies, and the importance of the actual ritual of apologizing as part of the reconciliation and healing process.

If there's one thing we can learn from the sacrament of reconciliation is that there is a huge grace in being able to physically apologize: even to a God we cannot see. Through that sacrament, we are able to enact our own mato oput (if you will) with God. There is such a great mercy in that.
But the greatest mercy in confession is this: we encounter a Someone who is gracious enough to hear our apology.
More than that.
He is good enough that He needs to hear our apology; is longing, thirsting for our apology.
He will not allow the harmony between ourselves and Him to be marred by a throbbing, lingering hurt.
He will not allow us to get-away with being only half-healed.

The moments of greatest healing in my life have come from listening to an apology. An apology humbly offered, and sincerely meant.

I remember crying on the floor in the basement of South Dining Hall (I mean: doesn't everyone?) with my best friend: accepting an apology for an offense that took me only a second to forgive.

I remember telling a boy who hurt me that I wanted to forgive him, but it would take some time. But I remember feeling that knot of fragile hurt and throbbing vulnerability and bitterness loosen a bit even as I said the words.

As I listened to those apologies, I took the first step beyond my broken defenselessness and began to wrap myself in the healing arms of love.

Granting forgiveness is an important step in healing the divisions between us. When listening to their apology, we cannot avoid encountering the grace and beauty present in each human being. When someone who has hurt us asks for our forgiveness, we see that despite all their flaws and imperfections, they also have the seeds of goodness planted in them.
We can begin to see the image of the Son in them.

The Christian life could be adequately and succinctly summed up in the words of Francis of Assisi:

Make me a channel of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love. 
Where there is injury, pardon. 
Where there is doubt, faith. 
Where there is despair, hope. 
Where there is darkness, light.// 
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; 
to be understood, as to understand; 
to be loved, as to love. 
For it is in giving that we receive. 
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Francis so beautifully illuminates the truth that the purpose of all our lives is to help water the seeds of goodness planted in our brothers and sisters. We are called to not let the weeds of hurt or hatred choke out the eternal love that we are all made for and that we all long for, thirst for, run for.

In pardoning those who have injured us, we are mirroring the pardon that we seek every time we kneel down in a confessional. What an inescapably terrifying beauty; what a marvelously heavy grace. 
Who knows but that we have been given that heavy grace for such a time as this?

The greatest act of self-sacrifice we can offer to another human is an apology.
And the greatest act of love and service we can perform is to listen to it.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful as always Renee! Wanted to let you know how much I love your posts--they are so beautiful and inspiring and speak right to my heart.
    Love you girl!