From the Rector: Forgiveness
On the bulletin board in my office I put up a card sent by the board of directors of the Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. It’s a drawing of the world and a figure of Jesus, arms outstretched, over the world, done by a young child named Katherine. She wrote this above Jesus, “He would do something nobody would ever think of.”
Rising from the dead was one thing Jesus did that no ever really thought of. The Man Born Blind, after he was healed, exclaimed, “Never since the world began has it been heard that any one opened the eyes of a man born blind” (John 9:32). Since Lent of this year, I have been meditating and thinking about something else that Jesus did that no one else in the Bible seems to have done. Does anyone anywhere in the Bible actually forgive anyone besides Jesus?
One can think of many stories where one might hope to find an account of forgiveness but it’s not there. Adam and Eve do not reconcile with their son Cain after Cain murders their other son Abel. What is of interest to the compiler of Genesis is that Cain is exiled and marked so that no one will kill him. David does not go to the family of Uriah to beg forgiveness for arranging Uriah’s death. There is no account of Paul reconciling with those he has persecuted.
In our traditional rite, the Benedictus has Zechariah addressing his newborn son John with these words, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways.” If memory serves, “before” in Hebrew is very literally “in the face of” someone or something. It really means just “before” and that’s what our contemporary rite says.
New Testament Greek uses a similarly vivid word for “repentance” – “metanoia.” It means literally “to turn around.” I will grant that Paul and the apostles and many others “turn” their lives in new and godly directions. But nothing is said about forgiveness, about the reconciliation of individuals who have sinned not just against God but against each other. In my own life I try to be aware of when I have not done the right thing and I try to make amends as I can. But the lack of example in Scripture to guide us is telling on so many levels and, of course, we don’t have any models to follow.
I remember a boss who once yelled at me in front of others and then later came to my office to apologize to me. That was genuinely appreciated by yours truly but I quickly discovered that it didn’t take care of everything. There was still a real awkwardness with colleagues. They hadn’t heard the apology; they weren’t included in it. The incident seemed to hang in the air for a long time because of this.
What does one do, how does one help, someone who had an abusive childhood, an abusive marriage, a friendship gone very wrong? My own sense is that there is a lot of stuff that just gets ignored when possible. People cope with their memories and consequences of sins with whatever emotional resources they may have – and when mature emotional resources fail, sins can be repeated and visited on others, even to the third and fourth generation. I haven’t been very successful in confronting people whom I believe have wronged me, and I fear those I have wronged are rarely successful in confronting me. Perhaps only people who are deeply in love with each other can forgive and be forgiven in this world.
I think that among the reasons the so-called self-help industry is so successful in our day (and different incarnations of the same in previous generations) is the reluctance of the Scripture and the Church – individuals, parishes and even denominations – to find a way forward with forgiveness. How do we learn to face the truth about things done and left undone and then end up in a better relationship with others than we imagined possible? It is one thing to confess to God; it’s another genuinely to reconcile with a fellow human being.
One of my seminary classmates, the Reverend John McCausland, who was preacher for my institution as rector, once wrote an essay essentially on loneliness, the fundamental “wound of the spirit” – to use Cardinal Newman’s phrase – that is always there, the mercy which ultimately calls us human beings to turn to God. Perhaps the road to right relationship with others and to reconciliation with others is only found through God.
I am not at all at a point in life where I have given up hope that God can do something new in this world, in our Church or in my own life. God may be able to close the wounds of my spirit that seem as if they can never heal. I think I can imagine them closed sooner than later. I can imagine forgiving someone and being forgiven by another human being. That would be radical, something nobody would ever think of, except for Jesus. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Pamela, Joan, Hilyard, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Eve, Virginia, Mary, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steve, Fahad, Sean, David, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher and Timothy and for the repose of the soul of Nora . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 17: 1972 Charles Henry Genet.; June 22: 1958 Rachel Reed Todd, 1967 Edith Kellock Brown.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: The Sunday Summer Schedule is observed until the first Sunday in October . . . On Sundays Child Care during the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and 11:00 AM Solemn Mass will be available all summer long. The Nursery is located next to the Sacristy (down the hallway from Saint Joseph’s Hall) . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 16, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, June 23, by Father Mead . . . Father Beddingfield begins his vacation on Sunday, June 17. He returns to the parish on Sunday, July 15 . . . Sister Laura Katharine and Sister Deborah Francis have returned from their annual long retreat. Welcome, home! . . . Attendance Corpus Christi 342.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude before is Adagio C-dur für Glasharmonika, KV 356 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The postlude is Mozart’s Fuge g-moll, KV 401. On most Sundays of the summer months, when the choir does not sing, the congregation sings the Mass ordinary, while the Gregorian propers and Communion music are sung by a cantor from the choir. This Sunday’s cantor is Mr. Steven Fox, tenor. The solo music at Communion is In native worth and honour clad from The Creation, Hob. XXI:2 by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). Robert McCormick
DO YOU WANT TO SERVE AT THE HIGH ALTAR? . . . Saint Vincent’s Guild is the name of the group of laypersons who serve with the clergy at Saint Mary’s. If you are interested in serving on Sundays or during the week please speak to Father Mead. We are always looking for new servers!
PARISH HISTORY . . . Dick Leitsch is our parish historiographer – and a very interesting person in his own right. Among the many projects he is working on is to get copies for our archives of what we think was our first parish magazine, The Arrow, which was published monthly from 1891 through 1899. A parish group for single young men, the Sons of St. Sebastian, were responsible for its publishing. Dick has just brought me copies of the issues of two years, 1896 and 1897. The Arrow included commentary from the parish and notes and copies of materials from many contemporary sources. The July 1896 issue leads with a note about the news that Pope Leo XIII was thought to be in the process of making a pronouncement about the “validity” of Anglican Orders, that is, whether our bishops, priests and deacons truly were part of the historic order of ministry of the Christian Church. This paragraph caught my attention:
If Leo XIII decides in favour of the validity of Anglican Orders, no doubt Anglicans will be pleased; it is always pleasing to have others agree with us; but what nest? Such a decision can have no practical effect in creating intercommunion. What is needed for the reunion of Christendom to-day is not so much a decision from the Pope that our orders are valid, as that the order he has assumed of “universal bishop” is invalid.
I can hardly wait to read through the rest of the issues! Dick, thank you. Wouldn’t it be great to get them on our web page? S.G.
FROM THE STEWARDSHIP COMMITTEE . . . The hundreds of communicants that come to the rail each week at Saint Mary’s invariably find that rail gleaming. To keep that shine, the rail, all those candlesticks, and the myriad other fine metalwork in the church require not only a vast supply elbow grease from the sextons, the Sisters, and the members of the St Mary's Guild, but also nearly $1,000 worth of Brasso and other specialty polishing products per year – just one of the costs of maintaining our inherited treasures and fulfilling our mission in Times Square.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Bernard Mizeki, Catechist and Martyr in Rhodesia, 1896
Friday Alban, First Martyr in Britain, c. 304 Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Mass. Childcare from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.