Friday, July 27, 2007

Discernment of Marriage

Question from my comments a few posts back: How would you recommend a person go about discerning marriage to a specific person? How does one know that the person they're with is THE one?

First of all, let me be a wee bit of a jerk and speak to a grammar issue which has been bugging me for years. Despite how politically incorrect it has become to use the masculine pronoun to refer neutrally to both sexes, it is still important to observe the rule that pronoun numbers must agree. "They're" is plural and should not be used as a substitute for "he or she is." A better wording would be How do I know that the person I'm with is THE one? See this site for more information on grammar usage.

Now to answer the question, as best as I'm able.

In the true understanding of marriage, the moment at which you know the person you're marrying is THE one is at the exchanging of vows. The vows alone make the marriage happen, because when you make a solemn vow you make it before God himself, and he holds you to it. We are not to expect some sort of cosmic awareness of destiny when we look to marry. In any dating relationship (more accurately called a courtship, since the purpose should be to discern marriage to that person) you will always have a degree of uncertainty about the relationship right up until the moment the vows are exchanged. As I prepared to marry my wife I was plagued with doubt (which varied from day to day) about the decision right up until the moment we made our vows.

So if you find yourself in a relationship and wondering about its future, ask yourself if you are willing to make those solemn vows with that person. Are you willing to commit? Are you willing to tolerate that person's faults and annoying habits? Is that person equally willing to tolerate yours?

Think back to the characteristics which attracted you to this person. Are those positive attributes still present? Are you taking those characteristics for granted because of the now obvious faults? Those things which annoy you about this person will not go away; marriage will magnify them. As the German satirist Georg C. Lichtenberg said, "Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight."

It might be helpful to make a list of the things you like and the things that drive you batty about this person. [I would not recommend sharing that list with him or her.] Carry a pen and paper for the next few days and add items as you think of them. Give yourself about a week to complete your compilation. Once your list is ready, assign a value to each item which represents its importance, between +5 and -5. For example, "Clips his fingernails at the table" might represent a -1 for you, whereas "Holds the door open for me" could represent a +2. Then there are the big ticket items, such as "Doesn't have the same faith beliefs as me" which is an easy -5 and "Gets along well with my family" to which I'd assign a +4. Add up the items in each column and use the final sum of the "good" vs "bad" values to help you in your decision.

A word of caution with this method: please do not use math as the sole method of discerning marriage. It also helps to talk to people you respect and trust and get their input on your relationship. Share your deepest concerns and be open to any insight they might have. Share the items on your list with a couple who has been married at least fifteen years and ask them to rate the importance of each item to make sure you're not off-base with your own ratings.

I also cannot over-emphasize the importance of prayer in discerning marriage to a specific person. God is intimately concerned with who you marry, and it could even be said that he knows who it is to be. But that doesn't mean that once he leads you to that person that everything will click and you'll fall in love over the course of an evening like Cinderella and Prince Charming. It is never that simple. You must always follow his path for you, especially through the courtship itself.

Ultimately, it all comes down to your decision, and to the level of commitment you are willing to invest in the marriage. The word decide has its roots in the Latin decidere which means "to cut off." It contains an element of permanency, and so should your decision.

I pray that you make it well.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

You Know It's Hot When...

This candle, the last time I used it in the garage, was perfectly vertical. Honestly! This really happened and we had no idea until we found it like this.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

A Good Wedding

Many of my readers, including my frequent commenter Trebler, were with me at a wedding today (Trebler's, for those of you who don't get the inside joke).

I love weddings. Especially when they're real, and not just the next logical step in the romantic interminglings of the cast of Friends. A real wedding is a very Catholic event; we celebrate the union of two persons into one, with the potential to create the mystery of a third. It's very Trinitarian, very sacramental, very holy, and very Eucharistic.

I find most stimulating the exchanging of vows. "Words mean things," as Rush Limbaugh observed, and no more so than in the case of a Promise. For this couple, although they are very young as far as popular "wisdom" goes, knows the meaning of the vows. They made several references to raising children in the various parts of the Mass, including in a personal yet public prayer they uttered just before dismissal. They get it.

Many people today don't. We're surrounded by messages saying that marriage is the commitment you make to a person when you want to spend the rest of (one of) your lives together. In that light, there is little reason to object to "gay marriage," incestuous marriage, or inter-species marriage. A life partner, in our diverse society, can be anything from a person of the opposite sex to a bottle cap, and nobody may dare question your choice for fear of the intolerant label.

But when you consider the procreative element of human sexuality and the logic of stable, complementary monogamy for producing the most well-rounded human person, all variations on marriage suddenly fall apart like a set of gears with no axle. This is why society is so hell-bent on redefining marriage as a mere "I'm currently fond of you" contract, when in reality it is so much more.

Thank goodness for Trebler and his new wife for seeing through the fog and marrying well. I wish them all the best as they embark on this difficult journey together.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Odonata, et Progne Subis

My post title is, respectively, the Latin classifications of the dragonfly, pictured on my hand here, and the purple martin, farther down. [Click to enlarge]

My vacation spot at this lake in central Saskatchewan hosts millions of dragonflies. You can't walk in a shady spot without disturbing dozens of them from their perches. They are so unafraid of humans that when I went out with my camera to take this shot, it took me less than 2 minutes to convince one to land on my hand.

I can recall coming here as a teenager and being accosted by mosquitoes each summer, but the local ecosystem seems to have caught up with those annoying bloodsuckers by introducing this amazing predator who can capitalize on the abundance of prey.

The purple martin, a large migratory swallow, has also made a home here. They too prey upon mosquitoes but I've seen more than a few catch a dragonfly in mid-flight. My parents have put up a purple martin birdhouse on a tall post on the beach, with ten compartments.

The birds are constantly swooping around, gathering food and feeding their young. The other night I sat on the beach to watch the sun set and engage in some Scriptural contemplation, but one of the purple martins took offense to my location. I didn't notice his ire until I heard a SCREECH-EECH and a rush of air inches above my head, which somewhat startled me. I watched him as he incredulously came around for another pass and did the same thing, again causing me to duck. But I was ready for his third pass: as he approached I flung out my arm and roared at him. He was sufficiently frightened and veered away and did not approach again. I could just imagine the rest of the birds in the birdhouse watching him and laughing as he realized he had bitten off more than he could chew.

Last night, also watching the sun set but farther north up the beach, a dragonfly alighted on my hand much as pictured above. It was facing away from me, so I turned my hand to try to get a better look at its head, but as I turned my hand the dragonfly turned as well (by walking), so it was still facing the setting sun. I turned my hand back and again the dragonfly turned to continue facing the same direction. Then another one landed on my other hand and as I turned both hands towards me, both dragonflies adjusted their orientation to maintain a westerly view.

This puzzled me; at first I wondered if they merely were enjoying the sunset with me, but then I spotted a small bug fly past, silhouetted by the light off the bright lake water, and instantly both dragonflies launched off hand and raced for the bug. One got it, the other didn't, but they both came back and landed on my hands again. They were using me as a duck blind! Over the next few minutes more dragonflies landed on my head and my shoulders, and I am fairly certain that if I hadn't gotten up to go inside I would have soon been covered from head to toe.

Some people might squirm at the thought of dozens of dragonflies flitting about you as you walk under a tree, or at the thought of these tiny insect legs gripping your flesh, waiting for prey. But they are such a docile creature - it will only bite if you try to grab its abdomen (wouldn't you?) that it's actually quite safe and fascinating to observe them close up.

My six-year-old daughter has caught more than a few and has unwittingly induced the end of their lives via captivity in a water bottle, and so we got out my dad's microscope and examined their various parts, from multi-faceted eyes to spiky legs to pterostigma (the heavier, coloured cell near the wingtip which is thought to decrease energy consumption during flight via a mass-spring effect). Having the microscope out opened up a whole afternoon of activity with her as well (did you know there are tiny bugs which inhabit the seed spores of the cottonwood tree?). This was a thrill for both myself and her, as we both delight in the created world around us.

Ah, what a grand vacation it's been.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Being at my old Free Methodist Bible camp every summer is always a challenging time for me. On one hand, I get to see old friends and family, but on the other hand, I find myself surrounded by Protestants (including many pastors) who don't understand my reasons for becoming Catholic.

I find myself wishing for a really good debate with somebody, anybody, on the failings of Sola Scriptura and the inevitable logic of reunion with Rome. The recent Vatican document released on the authenticity of the Protestant churches has made a bit of conversation around this issue possible. Naturally, I find myself in complete agreement with with Vatican's statement - if I didn't I wouldn't have converted - which as ecumenical guru Cardinal Walter Kasper points out, merely states that the Catholic understanding of the word Church is definitively different from the Protestant understanding.

Free Methodists recite the same Apostles' Creed as do Catholics, meaning that they too profess belief in "the holy catholic church" but when they say it they include a silent asterisk which refers to a mental footnote distancing that profession from "the Holy Catholic Church." So this disagreement on the definition of the word is nothing new. Cardinal Kasper states that "no new situation exists and therefore there is no objective reason [for Protestants] to be resentful or to feel mistreated. All dialogue presupposes clarity about the different positions."

I couldn't agree more: one of the devil's tactics is to confuse and spread misinformation. He is called the father of lies for a reason, and it is in his best interest to keep Protestants and Catholics wrangling over the misunderstood issues while the foundational semantics remain unclear.

A classic example is the statement that we are saved by grace. Protestants frequently claim that Catholics require works for salvation, in what they say is direct contradiction with Ephesians 2:8-9 (JB)

Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so tht nobody can claim the credit.
This is presented as the argument-stopper when a Catholic states that one must perform acts of penance and charity to claim salvation, in accordance with James 2:14-17 (JB)

Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him? If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, and one of you says to them, "I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty," without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that? Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.

The point lost in this debate is that works do not save, and faith does not save. What saves us is grace. We are saved at God's pleasure only; he freely gives us salvation. Both faith and works are a response to that grace. If God hadn't given us his grace, no amount of faith (or works) would save us. We may not always respond to grace adequately; usually our response is weak and feeble, but even an attempt to receive his grace is sufficient for him to move in our lives and draw us to his side.

So what if we were able to receive his grace fully, without any corruption or hesitancy or holding back? How often do we retain those secret areas of our lives that we just can't quite let go of? How often is our reception of God's grace hindered by our sinful natures? I venture to say that a perfect reception of God's grace is nearly impossible, unless he gifts us with an ability to respond with a perfect YES.

Which brings me to another sticking point in the Catholic/Protestant debate: Mary. The archangel greets her and calls her "full of grace." Think about that for a moment. Mary was somehow able to take the saving grace of God upon herself fully - she was able to respond with perfect obedience to the word of God once his mission for her became clear: "Let what you have said be done to me." (Luke 1:38 - JB).

Mary then goes on to sing her beautiful canticle, in which she says, "My spirit exults in God my savior." (Luke 1: 47 - JB). Protestants - and I was one of them - use this line to indicate that Mary needed salvation, for who can claim to have a savior when no salvation is needed? The only response is that Mary's salvation has been given through grace, just like any of us. She did not earn it; it was the gift of God. The fact that she was filled with grace does not mean that God didn't provide that grace. What it does mean is that God pre-conditioned her to be able to receive that grace fully. Catholics believe that Mary was preserved from the stain of original sin upon her conception - unlike the rest of mankind - which is why she was able to give that perfect YES to God.

Does it seem fair? Why would God preserve Mary and not you? Why not me? Why not Wallace Fitzgibbons of 13 Hampton Road, Chelmsford, UK?

Why is actually quite irrelevant. Take the parable of the vineyard workers, in which Jesus tells of workers who worked for the full day, a partial day, and one hour all being paid the same amount. Any labour union in the world would throw a fit if an employer did that, and in the parable the workers who had worked the longest complained, naturally. But the vineyard owner's response (Matt. 20:14,15 - JB) is:

Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?

Indeed, why? Are we so bound up in our own sin that we are unable to accept that God may choose to free somebody from that burden, especially one who would become a living Ark of the Covenant and retain the very presence of God within her? Scripture makes a point of recording that the original Ark was made out of pure gold (Ex. 37:2,6). Does it not stand to reason that the living vessel of the living God should also be purified?

When all is said and done, I hope and pray that my distant Protestant brethren may come to know these truths as I have, so that I may rejoice with them at the banquet of the Lord's supper and enjoy true communion with them. Lord, if there is any way you can use me to bring this about, I give myself to you for this task. You have given me this burning passion; give me opportunity to fulfill it, and wisdom when those times come.

Monday, July 16, 2007

A New Swear Word

In reading a story about how the Vatican's Pontifical Council of Culture has lent its prestige to a group which donated a few tracts of Hungarian forest in exchange for the title of "the world's first entirely carbon neutral sovereign state," I think I see a trend developing.

Carbon used to be known as the building block of life itself (unless you're a silicon-based Horta). But now it's the villain of all things eco-holy. Any story on the environment inevitably charges carbon (periodic abbreviation "C" - are you reading this Ed?) as the main instrument of offense, usually wielded with eco-indifference by a Republican or a Conservative. Just try a Google News search on it.

So the next time I stub my toe, I'm going to exclaim through gritted teeth, "Aw, CARBON!"

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Vacation: "A Gift Of God"

Pope Benedict XVI is on vacation. He is staying at Lorenzago di Cadore in Italy's mountainous northeast.

It may seem odd that somebody like the Pope would take a vacation; the common perception is that he just sits around in his big robes all day composing various edicts and meeting with withered old nuns.

But here are the words he delivered to visitors at the Vatican about a week ago, just prior to his departure:

The mountain air will do me good and I shall be able - I hope so - to dedicate myself more freely to reflection and prayer. I hope everyone, especially those in greatest need, will be able to take a bit of vacation to restore their physical and spiritual energy and recover a healthy contact with nature. The mountains call to mind in particular the spirit's ascent towards the heavens, its uplifting towards the "high standard" of our humanity, which daily life unfortunately tends to debase.

My own vacation spot, by contrast, does not naturally call one's spirit to great heights. But here in the beautiful horizontality of Canada's prairies I truly feel more connected with the divine. For I stand erect in contrast with the surrounding landscape, and am not obscured by skyscrapers and cell phone towers. Not that I am able to hide from God in the city, but the busy pace of "normal" life is so fraught with distraction and chaos that to find myself challenged only by trees for a place in the heavens is a refreshing perspective. Here I find that my human nature is free to be glorious, and to declare the wonders of God to the world around me.

I will try to live out the Pope's challenge on my vacation: to dedicate more time to reflection and prayer. As the activities of family camp this week begin to pick up and my kids become preoccupied with new friends, I can see the time starting to open up.

Lord, grant me a real time of refreshment here which draws me closer to your side.

Friday, July 13, 2007

True Story

Driving with my family today, I was eating cherries while my kids were tucked well behind me in the back seat. The five-year-old discerned that I was eating something, and asked me, "Daddy, what do you have?"

Fearing the gig was up and I'd have to share, I tried to deflect her question by boldly & proudly responding, "A positive attitude."

Immediately she replied, "Can I have one?"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Robot Soccer

This event known as Robocup seeks to foster development of robotic intelligence and motion so that by 2050 a team of robotic players will be able to defeat the World Cup Champions of that year.

The 2007 Robocup just ended; for now check out this video of the 2006 champion team. Amazing stuff!

8 Years of Wedded This

Yesterday my wife and I celebrated our eight-year wedding anniversary. Eight full years, four cute kids, filthy old minivan, big intimidating mortgage... so we went out for a night on the town. Which for us translates to dinner and a movie.

Dinner was baby back ribs at Appleby's. As we were seated in our noisy corner, I swear the hostess said, "Your server will be lazy tonight." I caught myself thinking, Is that really an acceptable standard? Then Lindsay appeared at our table.

We made a quick trip to Toys R Us (how do you get a backwards R on a Windows keyboard anyway?) where DW ran to the baby section and I drooled over the new Transformers. Then off to the mall for the movie!

DW wanted to make a quick exchange at a store before we hit the theater and I wanted to get our seats, so I dropped her off at the other end of the mall. Since we didn't yet have our movie tickets, I told her I'd get hers and leave it with the ticket taker guy, and that I'd tell him the code word was "mango." True to my end of the arrangement, I left the second ticket with him and secured our seats.

The lights dimmed and the previews started, so I kept my eyes peeled on the theater entrance to watch for my wife, and when I saw her come in and start to scan the crowd for me, I illuminated my face with my portable flashlight - it worked and she came right over.

"Any trouble getting your ticket?" I asked.

"No," she replied. "I told the guy that my husband left a ticket for me, and he said, 'Yeah, something about mango?' and I said, 'Yeah, that'd be him.'"

So much for security. I'll have to try that the next time I go to the movies. "Yeah, my buddy left a ticket for me here." "Oh yeah, code word Green Foot? Go right on in."

Anyway, the movie was Pirates of the Caribbean III, which we didn't really enjoy, but we had to see it because we had seen the other two. If we had had to pay for it then I might have had an issue, but we cashed in our icoke points for Famous Players vouchers and got everything free. With all the free stuff, coupons, and anniversary gift money we used, out of pocket we spent only $35 on the whole evening, and $7.50 of that was a tip with dinner (I'd like to thank Waiter for his frequent reminders of the importance of good tipping). When people ask how we get by on a single income, that's how.

Then we came home, thanked the in-laws for babysitting, and talked into the wee hours. Eight years is peanuts compared to my parents or even my grandparents, but it's just a start. Statistics show that the highest number of divorces occur within 5 years of marriage, and decreases from there. Now we're well over the hump and it's all slim probability from here.

So what's our secret? Refusing to treat the success of our marriage as a probability factor. Love is a choice, after all, and not something you fall into or out of. It carries periods of high and low emotions. It is never easy; it is usually hard. And in our society where we are encouraged to take the easy path of self-gratification, when the going gets tough, the tough get gone.

Not us.

We figured out the potential pitfalls and spent a lot of time in marriage prep learning how to avoid them. We preserved our sexuality for marriage, and are faithful to the Church's teaching on its proper usage within marriage. We spend time in prayer together, although not as much as we should. We rely on the graces of this beautiful sacrament and the strength of God to keep us going through the hard times, and boy oh boy do we have hard times.

But mostly the success of our marriage comes down to us having made a choice to love each other eight years and one day ago, and to renewing that choice each day.

You can bet I'll choose it again tomorrow.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

I Wish I Knew More About...

This is my 300th blog post. For no relevant reason, I decided to do a Google search on "I wish I knew more about" and am compiling the results below. The top 100 items are listed, with duplicated indicated in parentheses.

  1. Jazz music (2)
  2. Programming
  3. My hubby's stroke
  4. Rudy Guiliani
  5. Dreams
  6. Program design and evaluation
  7. Biotech in China
  8. Lyophilization [freeze-drying blood plasma or other biological substances]
  9. Self-defense
  10. the amazing opportunities both inside the campus and outside in the community
  11. The Early Action and the Early Decision
  12. electronic medical record (EMR) programs
  13. Hurricane categories
  14. The Bible
  15. The 30 [characters in a book by David Gemmell]
  16. what my students know
  17. the demands of recruiting
  18. Religion
  19. emerging markets and how to penetrate them at the right time
  20. the separate components of the greenhouse
  21. Motors
  22. those Marine football games
  23. Economic and financial stuff
  24. Chicken Pox
  25. hacking the tivo
  26. American geography
  27. the realities of the Carribean [sic] Africans
  28. social network theory
  29. The structure of writing
  30. which planets were well too hot and well too cold, etc.
  31. selling on ebay
  32. Cebuano - a dialect
  33. going to college when I was going into college
  34. Those Who Came Before
  35. Farriery [shoeing horses] (2)
  36. Jennifer Laycock [Editor of Search Engine Guide by day, and the The Lactivist by night] (2)
  37. the inhabinets [sic] of Castle Town
  38. John
  39. why I am in special education
  40. the DV-Now AV
  41. audio stuff
  42. Josh and Joanna []
  43. Money
  44. computer hardware and how it worked (2)
  45. You
  46. arts, music, and theater programs at school (2)
  47. the VIP tickets for Dallas
  48. how to set it up [the digest form]
  49. why poverty is such a strong predictor
  50. white collar crime
  51. approximation theory--Chebyshev polynomials, Fourier series, etc
  52. what data structures maintain the current state of the interpreter
  53. that Kisok [sic] system at Best Buy
  54. science education
  55. all these various lines of descent
  56. Nike tour product
  57. French culture, the French language, and France in general. Why? I cannot say.
  58. Birds
  59. South Africa
  60. your area of research
  61. The ink's durability
  62. Guitar amp repair
  63. Gustav and Josephine
  64. photography
  65. Chinese architecture
  66. contemporary genetics
  67. the item(s) I'm trying to sell
  68. pitching
  69. how these stories were originally published in Japan
  70. how Doug died
  71. Java (2)
  72. how it's put together [structure in nonfiction]
  73. cars
  74. the sound system
  75. the 'again' part [in regards to “this Josh fellow has been up to no good again”]
  76. what Tom Baker has been up to since Doctor Who
  77. the Brazos company
  78. MP3s
  79. Schuyler's
  80. why we were celebrating it [free speech]
  81. the retirement fund
  82. HDTV and a satellite receiver
  83. a cheese plate
  84. what that truly means [the Final Word]
  85. art history
  86. American history
  87. LDAP packages
  88. Vietnamese arts
  89. the council
  90. Thomas and his needs
  91. performance impacts
  92. French Opera
  93. building rpm's
  94. Installing an LS 5th gear in a 98 GSR manual transmission
  95. Barney
We live in a curious world.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Great Unrepresentative Canadian Wish List

Oh, what a joy it is to watch the media fumble over the CBC's experiment on Facebook to have Canadians issue their wishes for Canada.

As I'm sure you've heard, the #1 wish is to abolish abortion in Canada. This quote for the above video just cracks me up: "[The #2 wish for abortion to remain legal in Canada] hasn't proven as popular on Facebook, and that has pollsters scratching their heads. Environics Research stopped asking about abortion seven years ago, because they say it's just not on the political radar."

What? You mean not everybody has bought into the accepted viewpoint? How did they miss that?

Ah, but it's explained away by saying that it's not a poll, it's an experiment on what social networking sites can do. And those damned pro-life bloggers! Can't they keep their opinions to themselves? Don't they realize the Internet should only have one kind of offensive smut on it? Yes, of course. So the Wish List has really only demonstrated that pro-lifers are more organized than pro-aborts. Or at least, that they have more like-minded friends.

That stands to reason; the social circles which the pro-aborts frequent have had their numbers thinned over the past few decades, after all.

Although I think if there was some way to involve the spiritual realm and obtain votes from all the babies aborted since 1988, when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down all federal law restricting it, the margin between first and second place would be more than a mere 16%.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

As We Forgive Those

I had a remarkable discussion with a new friend on Sunday about forgiveness.

As traditional wisdom has it (and many variations of pop psychology), we must forgive everybody who has wronged us if we are to be whole and complete people.

Yet we prayer in the Our Father: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." This statement is a two-edged sword, for while we are begging God's forgiveness, we are also making it conditional on our own. This implies a connectivity between the way God forgives and the way we are to forgive.

The mere fact of asking for God's forgiveness for our sins guarantees, through the work of his son Jesus, that we will receive it. This is a key concept: we ask, God forgives.

And yet we hear from countless angles the notion that we must proactively offer forgiveness to those who do not seek it. In other words, we are counseled to forgive those who do not ask.

I am not proposing that we should hang on to our hurts and grudges and become writhing balls of self-pity and bound-up fury. On the contrary - it is in trying to give to him who does not wish to receive that we cause ourselves more anguish and strife.

So what are we called to do until the person who has wronged us seeks forgiveness? Matthew 18:15-17:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

So we are given this prescription from Jesus on how to resolve the hurt and anger we have all been through in our lives. God does not call us to be bitter; he calls us to be free, and he calls us to call our brothers and sisters to freedom too. For he who wronged you is bound up, as the next verse says:

Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

If we hang on to our hurt, we are prolonging it, and we are preventing the fullness of harmony between God's people. This is at the heart of many shattered friendships, of countless family disputes, and even of the Church itself, fragmented into so many incomplete segments.

Now, if I approach one of my junior high bullies and ask him to apologize for the hurt he caused me and he refuses, and if I go through this process of bringing a witness and then involving the Church (maybe having a Mass said for him?) and he is still unrepentant, then am I permitted to hate him? Is that what Jesus means by treating him like a Gentile or a tax collector?

How did he himself treat Gentiles and tax collectors? He was a source of scandal to his community by dining with them, by beckoning them out of trees, and even by having mere conversations with them. In other words, if we are not able to obtain repentance and thus provide forgiveness, then we are to evangelize these people. This involves prayer, sacrifice, and displaying the love of God for them.


As the steamroller of time crawls across our lives, it's easy to believe that some things get buried and are impossible to uncover. Or perhaps we are fully aware of the ability to uncover our hurts but are reluctant, if only for the recurrence of pain it will bring us to meet with our victimizers.

Jesus seems to be calling us here to a difficult task, and yet it is a noble one which will transform our lives and renew our hearts.

Likely everybody who reads this can think of one person who must be reconciled with; a person who must apologize to you so you can forgive him. I sure can.

Time to Google his name and see where he's at.