The Kingdom’s Contagion

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit:

This Sunday’s Mass is all about forgiveness. We are called to be as persistent in offering it as we are in asking for it. It’s a family trait—if you count God’s Kingdom as your family. The world’s been through a lot with the family of man over the  years, with much bad behavior for our Father to forgive related to wars, mass shootings, pandemics and rumors of pandemics, economic uncertainty, food uncertainty, and roller-coaster economies. Amidst all this, we are called to make forgiveness a family trait. But ever since Cain slew Abel, humanity has invented newer and newer ways to continue retrieving the hatchets we’re always burying.  

One of the groups this blog represents is called Brothers in Christ, and BIC’s been meeting like a family of brothers (on and off) for more than 10 years now. It is one of several ministries of St. Michael’s parish family in Independence, Ohio (including the Knights of Columbus and the Holy Name Altar & Rosary Society). The point is, wherever you are in the world, you don’t have to look far to become part of a church family that lives to forgive and thrives on a mission to keep hope alive.

But like many church groups, BIC’s membership has gradually dwindled over the years. Those global challenges that touch all families account for a few of the many reasons. This blog’s persistent existence, however, is a reminder that if you live near a church, you have an extended and extensive family close-by, ready to meet our world’s challenges with you—whether you’re a parent trying to help a child face them, a child helping a parent survive them, or just a neighbor helping a neighbor.  

Church group meetings? How exciting.

Maybe inviting’s a better word—once you get involved. Through BIC’s (mostly) monthly meetings, for example, we put Biblical readings like those we hear every Sunday during Mass in the context of our families—extending scripture’s shelf life in our brains. In our most recent meeting, one of our brothers shared with us a video homily via Youtube about forgiveness.  In it, a Father Leo Clifford added some Irish toughness to the squishy talk we often associate with forgiveness.

This Sunday’s Mass readings cover various takes on that virtue:

–Abraham’s persistence in asking God to forgive Sodom for the sake of an ever decreasing number of innocent residents (Gn 18:20-32);

–Paul’s reminder that forgiveness of the world eventually came down to the sacrifice of a single innocent man (Col 2:12-14); and

–The prayer of forgiveness that innocent man taught humanity so we could overcome succeeding centuries of sinfulness (“forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us.”) (Lk 11:1-13).

Forgiveness has come to be known as “burying the hatchet.” That video our BIC brother shared with us has Father Clifford adding some color commentary on the subject. He explains that, sure, his fellow Irishmen bury hatchets, but they make sure to remember where … for easy exhumation the next time they want them. Instead of burial, he suggests an over-the-shoulder toss into the nearest ocean.

The hours most Church groups spend helping their family members add digestible context like this to the scriptures make our learnings easier to take home and share with our own family members. Then each of THOSE members can more easily share God with their own networks of “extended family.”

In THAT way, maybe our human family DID learn something valuable from the Covid contagion. Why not participate in the communicable wisdom your church offers via groups like these? No hatchets, just a quick way to cut our ties to this world’s unrelenting and unforgiving snares.

–Tom Andel

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