A Los Angeles protester with arms raised participates in a Nov. 25 march following the grand jury decision in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Forgiveness at heart of healing after Ferguson violence, says archbishop

By  Dave Luecking, Catholic News Service
  • August 10, 2015

ST. LOUIS - Forgiveness. Such a simple word, a mere 11 letters but it's at the heart of the Catholic faith, along with love, peace and justice, said the archbishop of St. Louis.

"Jesus tells us that if we receive Him as the bread of life, we will have His life within us," Archbishop Robert Carlson said in his homily at a Mass for peace and justice Aug. 9 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. "He shows what this life means on the cross, when He forgives those who killed Him."

With a crowd topping 600, the Mass commemorated the first anniversary of the shooting death of Michael Brown, an African American teen, in a confrontation with a white police officer. It also marked the 70 years since the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (Aug. 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (Aug. 9, 1945) and caused an unprecedented loss of life.

"We know (the atomic bombs) inflicted tremendous human suffering," Carlson said. "Likewise, we know the events (in Ferguson) uncovered a culture of systemic racism, rage just below the surface of daily life, and a court system which failed to recognize institutional injustice in its manner of operation."

But after the release of pent-up rage, what comes next? The real work begins with forgiveness.

"There is much that needs to be done in our work for ... meaningful change and healing — fostered by a better understanding of the pain of others, our brothers and sisters in Christ," Carlson said. "If we ever hope to sit at a common table with our brothers and sisters — black or white, red or yellow, the colour of the skin makes no difference — we need to ask God to bless us with the grace of mercy and love that we see in Jesus.
"When we receive Him as the bread of life," the archbishop continued, "we can let go of hate and hurts and grievances and forgive one another — a healing that interconnects with faith — and is the first step toward building relationships and assisting those who live in poverty."

Carlson said that healing and justice "can only be achieved in our respect for one another and our commitment to being with one another in the suffering."

No one should let their brothers and sisters "bear their suffering alone," he said.

Carlson urged Mass-goers to remember the next time they recite the Our Father that "you ask God to forgive you to the same degree you forgive others." This is important, he said, "for the Christian message of love and justice."

"Our message shows its effectiveness through the actions we take in the cause of justice in the world and especially here in St. Louis, our own backyard. We will not gain any credibility as a people of faith if we refuse to serve those closest to us."

In that regard, at the archdiocese's first Mass for peace and justice some months ago, Carlson had called for the formation of a Peace and Justice Commission. Its 27 members were commissioned during the Aug. 9 Mass.

Carlson called them "dedicated men and women (who) will look at the challenges all around us and from a Catholic perspective provide pathways to change."

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