All of God’s children

It was a glorious summer morning. I was enjoying watching the birds on my morning walk. I glanced over at a newspaper kiosk. There was a picture of a young boy on the front. Assuming he had done something special in school or Scouting, I went to investigate. This 13-year-old allegedly had shot and killed someone. Authorities wished to try him as an adult. 

With a suddenly heavy heart, I continued my walk. I remembered back to the first time I taught forensics to adolescents. It was a brand new class at the high school. Upperclassmen walked in giggling to one another about being CSIs and catching perps. Before we even went over the syllabus, I asked them to stand for prayer. Standing was a non-verbal cue that our prayer that day was special. I asked each student to remember that anytime a forensic scientist was called to work that someone had been victimized (hurt or killed). Together, we prayed for all the victims of violent crimes, their families, the authorities who dealt with investigating such crimes, those in the judicial system, and lastly for those who had committed the crimes. At the latter, a few heads popped up. I saw in a few adolescent faces wonder at our praying for the “bad guys.” An insightful teen-ager whispered to her classmates, “She’s reminding us that each of us is one of God’s children.” 

For some time now, our world has called forth: “Places or situations where people think differently are problems to be feared. Solve the disagreement most readily by removing your opponent.” Whether the instrument be gossip in a bully’s hand or a dangerous weapon in a murderer’s hand, each of those people is trapped in following that worldly vision. 

Jesus pointed us towards and called us to live a better way. He said, “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own. Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye” (Lk 6:42-43). This is more than a reminder not to judge. It is a striking image that each person alone is incapable of seeing the full picture. 

When there is misunderstanding or conflict, if we let them, time and space readily allow anger and hurt to diffuse. Mark Nepo says, “Perhaps the most difficult challenge of being wounded is not turning our deepest loving nature over to the life and way of the wound.” Before moving forward, one must reflect and pray. One must examine the situation with God’s eyes of love. Next, one is called to meet with one’s brother so that each of the two can assist the other in living God’s plan (not theirs). That is what is happening in Jesus’ image of each person removing the splinter from the eye of the other. The critical part of Jesus’ message is the responsibility one has to see things rightly before choosing to act. 

We can take a lesson from the animal kingdom here. One can cross-foster mice from one mother to another. One gently rubs the hours-old baby mice together with their new brothers and sisters along with a small amount of bedding. All the baby mice are put into a new cage along with the mother mouse and a new nesting pad. The mother mouse will gently pick up each baby and bring him/her to the new nest. A couple of weeks later it is obvious by sight (color of fur) which mice were adopted. Yet, the mother mouse chooses to continue to see all the babies as her own. Her vision extends past minor differences. If we truly wish to live in a world that respects the distinctive viewpoint of each person, we, as individuals, must not only learn to look past minor differences and/or disagreements, but we must work diligently to share that wisdom with others. 

Returning home from my walk, I turned the page on my calendar. The quote for the day was from Franciscan Sister Thea Bowman who worked as an educator at the elementary, secondary, and college level. Quite simply she worked to promote communication which served to end things that drove people apart. Sister Thea said, “Maybe I’m not making big changes in the world, but if I have somehow helped or encouraged somebody along the journey, then I’ve done what I am called to do.” Our world needs more courageous people willing to assist others on the journey home to God. The positive role models and the different world vision required by an individual in crisis need to have been set in motion a long time before the challenge. Only then can someone exert the self-discipline to turn away from that worldly vision and choose not to pick up the available weapon. Will you join me in trying to continue Sister Thea’s work?

Anchor columnist Helen Flavin is a Catholic scientist, educator and writer and a member of St. Bernadette’s Parish in Fall River.

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