Three special words often mark Pope Francis’ advice to families on how to live well together: Thanks, Please, and Sorry. Frequent use of these three special words enhances the quality of family life. But these ‘special words’ always require awareness and a dose of humility, and often a lot of maturity and courage.
This is also true in the Christian Family. Would it not be wonderful if all the Christian churches and faith communities used these three special words regularly? Our Christian life would be more peaceful and our Christian presence in the world would be more attractive to non-Christians!
Conflict repels us while reconciliation draws us like magnets.
Recently, Pope Francis visited the Waldensian Christians in Turin to ask them for forgiveness (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-address-at-waldensian-temple). It is a remarkable event when the Catholic Church of fifty million adherents asks forgiveness of this small Christian movement of twenty-five thousand. The Pope stated in his address: “On behalf of the Catholic Church I ask your forgiveness for the non-Christian, even inhuman, attitudes and behavior that we have had against you. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us!”
Just a few years ago, at the turn of the Millennium, Saint Pope John Paul II’s apologies and prayers for forgiveness troubled some faithful Church members who loudly criticized such a gesture. They questioned if it was possible for present day communities to actually ask forgiveness for earlier generations. However, associated guilt keeps wounds open and barely healing. Prince Charles recently commented about the long history of Irish-English conflict, “Recent years have shown us, though, that healing is possible even when the heartache continues.” (http://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/prince-charles-s-full-speech-healing-is-possible-even-when-the-heartache-continues-1.2220023).
As human beings we inherit many ugly consequences of wounded memories and broken family bonds. The need to heal these wounds is urgent. We must amend repugnant history to restore family bonds today and in the days ahead. The Holy Spirit is at work now forging our unity, step by little step!
Our synagogue at Magdala (www.magdala.org) evokes a bygone moment before its closure in 67 AD. At that time the followers of Jesus, some of whom gathered at Magdala, were not yet divided from one another, nor even broken off from the Jewish people. This synagogue calls us to look again at our commonality after so many regretful years of separation.
A shared family is the basis of the culture of encounter that Pope Francis so ardently advocates. He said to the Waldensian Christians: “Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again for this meeting, which I hope will confirm us in a new way of being with one another: looking first of all at the grandeur of our common faith and of our life in Christ and in the Holy Spirit and, only afterwards, the differences that still subsist.”
Magdala, at its core, celebrates the grandeur of our common faith and our life in Christ. In doing so, we believe it will contribute to worldwide renewal and reconciliation.
At Duc In Altum, we welcome all Christians to feel at home, to delight in the beauty of Galilee, to refresh the memory and presence of Jesus, and to lift their hearts in song and prayer. While Duc In Altum is clearly prepared for Christian use, nevertheless a Jewish visitor also feels recognized and honored there. Like a ribbon, a replica of the synagogue mosaic connects the columns of the Women’s Atrium. A Jewish person also recognizes the synagogue style of the Encounter Chapel, where the recently excavated marketplace of the first century port has been fashioned into a chapel by stone benches, columns and colors that immediately capture the not-yet-divided atmosphere of the Magdala synagogue before 67.
In our common faith, we encounter each other again!
May the example of repentance and forgiveness demonstrated by Pope Francis with the Waldensian Christians become more frequent in the days ahead. May the family of God always use kind and welcoming words toward each respective family member, regardless of race, culture, or ethnicity. And may we Christians blaze a more accessible trail for healing of ‘family’ conflicts on all levels.
It is time to say we are sorry, to forgive, and to ask for forgiveness. Thanks – Please – Sorry; three special words. This is the day the Lord has made! Use them today!