Friday, July 10, 2009

The Vengeance of the Lord

After serving as St Henry pastor in the '80s, Fr Harry went on to serve in other ways. He kept ties with Monticello though and is now the music director at the same church. Until recent years, he'd even say Mass from time to time.

A few years ago he was at the pulpit for a month of Sundays. I always loved how he could weave homilies that continued for weeks. He taught me to see the fragments of Gospel presented each Sunday as the life of Christ.

At that time we were hearing about the Sermon on the Mount. He'd talked about how revolutionary Christ's message of love was in Old Testament days. "People were scared. Christ words were revolutionary. Following Him was more than just marveling at His miracles. Christ called for change. He called for love in the face of hatred, joy in the face of doubt. He turned everything upside down. Even in today's society the message of love is tough to get."

Fr Harry invited us to close our eyes. He painted a picture of the day we each reach heaven and first experience the wonders there. It was a lovely, warm picture.

Then he said, "Now you look to your right and there beside you is your most bitter, lifelong enemy walking with you. Are you feeling love?"

That shook me.

First I was surprised: my most bitter enemy had a face. I hadn't been aware I knew someone I could define as "my most bitter enemy"!

Then I was mad: wasn't I entitled to some cosmic justice?? If not burn-in-the-seventh-level-of-hell cosmic justice, then why not at least a few centuries of meandering up the mountain of purgatory?? (Any Dantonians out there?)

Now I'm simply thankful for Grace.

My failures are between me and God. And God loves me enough to cast those failures as far as the east is from the west. I'm so blessed by that, I don't have time to worry anymore about where someone else is in their relationship with God. I can't find the energy to enshrine a most bitter enemy.

Whenever I encounter people who talk about the wrath of God or His vengeance, I find myself hoping they keep reading until they finish the Old Testament and make it to the New Testament--especially the part where Christ shares the Sermon on the Mount.

1 comment:

  1. Your words touched me. Fr. Harry was an amzing person. My parents divorced when I was 12 but my mom was determined to fufill her promise to raise us in the Catholic Church.
    I remember her telling us the story about when she asked Fr. Harry about receiving Communion. He told her that technically as a divorced woman he was not supposed to give her that sacrament but he told her that he would never turn her away. That was a testament to the person he was: he knew the rules but also understood the reality of our world. My parents did not divorce without merit and he understood that.
    I hope he is doing well....I think of him often.