Father Leo Proxell

Father Leo Proxell

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In the Book of Ecclesiastes, we are told “there is a time for everything and a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Ecc 3/1) And so we continue in this time “under the heavens” with stress and anxiety building in our hearts.

Turmoil and violence are reported daily. Human rights are violated on a regular basis and we even see a level of iconoclasm developing with the destruction of statues and monuments. There can be justification for the removal of various images that honor unjust and dark moments in our history. But a reminder that the biblical passage from Ecclesiastes goes on the say, “a time to tear down and a time to build.”

Perhaps it is time “to build,” and restore the unity and peace that gives us hope and strength to live our lives. Is it time to examine the dream of our forefathers to “form a more perfect union” as the Preamble of our Constitution invites us to do? Of course, this is the very experiment we have been part of for over 200 years now. What can we do to continue that process? Without getting into the political details, I would suggest we review our call to live a virtuous life as the followers of Christ.

Central to all faith traditions is the characteristic of mercy. It is the bedrock of living as God would invite us to live. God is mercy itself and the source of all forgiveness. Without that sense of being unbound, we struggle in life to free ourselves from the slavery of sin and end up tying ourselves in knots with anger, frustration and fear. But there is a way to move out of that struggle.

Last week in our assigned scripture passages in the Catholic tradition, we reflected on the number of times we are to forgive. In Mathew 18/21-35 Peter asks Jesus how often we should forgive. He gives the biblical number seven as a start, since it is one of the signs of perfection. But Jesus “ups the ante” by saying we are to forgive 77 times. (This means all the time, not an exact number.)

The Lord tells a parable of a man who is forgiven a huge debt and then later demands payment of a very small debt to himself. He has forgotten the profound mercy given to him and receives harsh consequences for his action.

One point of the parable is to remind us that God’s mercy is profound. We can never “repay” the debt of our sins to God. We can gratefully receive the gracious mercy and forgiveness of God and then offer it with joy and abundance to others as a sign of our gratitude.

Perhaps we can begin to find ways to overlook small things. I find for myself in these anxious days. I am more upset with little things not going the way I would like, than the big issues. Maybe we can start there and develop kinder ways of driving in the busy streets of Bozeman, and speaking to one another, and even greeting others. A little bit of kindness to those who are working to assist us in the service industry can go a long way. Encouraging all who serve us in security matters, like the police/sheriff, fire and first responder world, is an easy way to move forward in gratitude and joy.

We have to work at this ourselves, friends. We have been given great mercy. Let us spread it around. It can lead to “a more perfect union.”

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Father Leo Proxell is pastor of Holy Rosary Church in downtown Bozeman. He has been pastor there for 19 years.

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