This coming Friday is the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Still reeling from the devastation of that day, today we live in a world turned upside down by the pandemic. Our lives are rocked by violence in our cities as well as racial and economic injustice. We are unsettled by political upheaval and division.
These heartbreaking events have consequences. They can alienate and isolate us in anger, suspicion, hate, pain and hurt. On the other hand, these distressing realities can be a motivation for us to increase our efforts to connect more with each other. Alienation and isolation can give way to honest conversation, a desire for understanding and ultimately reconciliation.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that if someone wrongs us, we should go to that person and point out what happened (Matthew 18:15-17). Another way to put it is to say that when there is conflict, communicate. We know what happens when we do not. We get bitter, we harbor resentment. We grow distant from the other person or group. We start making things up that are not true.
The point of our existence as human beings and certainly as people of faith is not to live in isolation but rather in community. So Jesus tells us, communicate. Talk first to the offender. Then, if necessary, widen the circle, bring more people into the conversation. Offenses that go unattended fester. If the only response to being hurt is retaliation, the circle of violence will just get bigger. The images we see every day in real time or on the television confirm this reality.
The philosopher John O’Donohue once said, “Every conflict in the world, whether it be 5 minutes ago or 50 years ago is ultimately resolved by coming to the table and talking. Why don’t we just come to the table in the first place and skip all the destruction and hurt that goes on in between?”
In a few days, we will commemorate one of the most tragic events in the history of the United States. That terrible day as well as the turmoil of our own times can be redeemed if they motivate us in our families, our relationships, as a parish, a Church, a nation, a world, to come to the table and talk. With God’s grace, our conversations will change things. Our conversations will change us.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector