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  • Notes from your Pastor

    5th Sunday of Lent – Forgiveness

     

    The Bemba people of Zambia which is in Africa have an interesting ritual.  A group of people known as the people of Bemba believe that every human who comes into the world is good.  Every person’s deepest desire is for safety, love, peace and happiness.  When someone from this group of people acts unjustly or irresponsibly, then that person is required to stand in the center of the village alone and unrestrained.  The other members of the Bemba people are called together and they gather in a large circle around the one who has been accused of some wrongdoing.

     

    Each person gathered around the accused then begins to speak, recalling all the good things that the accused person has done throughout the course of a lifetime.  Many good deeds are mentioned in great detail.  All of the accused person’s positive attributes, strengths, kindnesses and efforts on behalf of the common good are recited carefully by different members of the group.

     

    When everyone has spoken on behalf of the accused one, all the members of the Bemba people break the circle and a joyous celebration takes place.  The one who had committed an injustice or who had behaved badly is now welcomed back into the group and given a fresh start.  Past deeds are now forgotten as celebration and reconciliation intersect.  The Bemba people are stronger and more unified because of this ritual and their focus is on the positive aspects of the person instead of the negative.  This pastoral response, instead of a punitive one, supports the community in the face of difficult situations.

     

    This story is in contrast to the story which we hear in the Gospels.  In the Gospel for the 5th Sunday of Lent, the circle of people is condemning the woman who has been caught in adultery.  The only one not to condemn the woman is Jesus.  He states, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  As Jesus wrote on the ground, one by one they leave.  A silent film portrays this episode with captions of individual sins over the heads of each individual, appearing as people let go of their stones and walk away.  In the end, no one condemns the woman.  And Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.  Go and from now on do not sin anymore.”

     

    This week on our Stewardship table we emphasize forgiveness.  I once saw a bumper sticker that looked like this – It had the number 3 plus the number one and then the number 4.  It went like this – 3 Nails plus 1 Cross = 4given.

    Forgiveness is about extending mercy.

     

    Rather than condemn, the Bemba people and Jesus call out goodness.  We heard about the Merciful Father last week who asks one son to be merciful as the father extends mercy to the younger son.  Mercy is a gift.  Mercy is not deserved.  The Father is merciful to all.  As we celebrate Holy Week, we will hear that Jesus was and is merciful to all.  He died for all of us while we were yet sinners.  We did not deserve it; but He paid the price to set us free from our sins.  Like Him, may we be merciful to one another.

     

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    Please remember in your prayers those who are sick. May they and their caregivers receive comfort and strength, remembering especially Ronnie Bellomy, Mary Ann Betliskey,
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