Friday of the First Week of Lent
Reconciliation, the path to praise God.
In preparing this reflection, I found myself praying about the many gifts that my fellow human beings and I have been given by God and, out of a genuine desire to “praise, reverence, and serve” God (our ultimate purpose, articulated by St. Ignatius), the particular gifts that I’m called to bring forth as an offering to God and the world. Reflecting on gifts is a discernment exercise I tend to enjoy.
Then, as I approach the altar, God asks me to first go and reconcile any grievances I have with my “enemies” before making my offering. Now I’m no longer enjoying the exercise.
I’m enrolled in a pastoral care course that focuses on accompanying those who are suffering and dying, and the loved ones who accompany them. What’s coming clear to me (yet again, as I need constant reminding) is that every one of us human beings is extraordinarily vulnerable. The human experience wounds each of us and all of us. So much suffering and death – and, as we recall on Ash Wednesday, no one is spared.
I’m trying to learn (yet again) that to truly praise, reverence, and serve God, my life’s path must continually pass through the difficult terrain of reconciliation, which includes reconciling with my “enemies.” And I’m realizing that my enemies are not only those who inflict injustices upon me and my fellow sisters and brothers – but that they’re everywhere and they’re close to me: they’re anyone who I quickly judge or dismiss without first trying to know and understand; they’re anyone who doesn’t agree with me or who offends or simply annoys me; they’re anyone with whom I exchange violence through thoughts and words, much less actions. They’re also my family and friends.
I’m left wondering: What if I, what if we all, would choose to recalibrate, especially during this time of great fracture in our world? What if I chose to see each person before me not first as a real or potential enemy, but as a fellow human who is also broken and prone to making mistakes? What if I could see the other as a fellow sufferer-traveler who must also grapple with the fact that they and their loved ones are going to die, just as I am? What if I could start with the great possibility and hope that this person also loves their family and has great dreams for themselves and the world, just as I do? What if we started over and committed ourselves to fostering a deep sense of compassion, of wanting the other to flourish, of committing to forgiveness?
Perhaps this path, the path of reconciliation, of reconciling our common humanity with the other before us, is one we’re all called to before we’re truly able to praise, reverence, and serve God.