Luke 1:46b-55 the Magnificat
1:46b «My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God
1:48 for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
1:49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is
1:50 His mercy is for those who fear him from generation to
1:51 He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the
proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
1:52 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and
lifted up the lowly;
1:53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich
1:54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his
1:55 according to the promise he made to our ancestors, to
Abraham and to his descendants forever.»
We Catholics call this the «Magnificat» and this verses are so much part of our prayers as the lord’s prayers and are a reminder that our father is almighty and his blessings are with us at all times. I consider myself a very blessed woman for all the circumstances that constitute my life history and God constantly reinforces that feeling in me.
Today I will speak of a very meaningful blessing: My family and I are survivors of the invasion. In this past few days you have heard about the invasion, probably went to watch the documentary and did not “get it”, probably you were too young to remember or maybe too foreign to Simply Care. Probably you don’t want to read about it or see it anymore.
When preparing this sermon I thought about sharing my memories as a twelve year old that December of 1989, If you saw the documentary, you might have heard the memories of low class people participating in the looting and high class people who had full pantries and saw the invasion as liberation. My family belongs to the working class, the ones that need two incomes to sustain a family and while having limited resources to face a war act, their principles prevented them from participate in any looting. The memories are hard and painful, not necessarily because of what we experienced but because of the despair and insecurity we felt during those weeks and the impotence to do anything about it. There are groups that want to tuck it away, put it behind us; but honestly, it’s too soon to do that. As Christians we are called to bear one another’s pain and after 25 years of the invasion and 50 years of the martyrs of 1964, the revival of patriotic movements and increasing complains against foreigners in the media, calls us to stop in our tracks and assess where we are and who we are. To look at the society in which we live, to call us to action, to be held accountable to one another and to God for how we live our own lives.
The liturgical calendar and our own collective emotional calendars are not precisely in synch with this historical date. Nobody expects a sermon about acknowledgement and forgiveness of an Invasion 3 days before Christmas, the same way you don ́t expect your family to face the fear and despair of a war on your doorstep 4 days before it, nor the insecurity that lasted weeks after it.
Twenty five years after the atrocities of the invasion, the pain remains––intense for those closest to the victims, a dull ache for those of us further removed. Jesus reaches out from the day’s Gospel to take our pain––if not with an instant remedy, surely with a sound road to recovery.
Forgiveness is the essence of Christian love. It is not restricted to overlooking petty faux pas or even gross insults. Forgiveness is the transcendent courage to absorb a despicable blow without being consumed by a blood-lust for revenge. Forgiveness is not a largesse we dispense by power of our innate superiority. It is the grace of God transmitted through us. It is the ultimate witness of Christ’s love in the world.
But don’t be confused. Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card for perpetrators. Civil justice should be tempered, not eliminated, by Christian love. God has not issued an easy-pass for evil in the world to benefit the bad guys.
Forgiveness works differently for each person, And as a Christian, I confess to you, my brethren, that Forgiveness is difficult for me, but a collective effort of acknowledgement of what happened during the invasion: the lives that were lost, the families that were broken, and the deep wound inflicted in the Panamanian people might trigger a collective effort to strengthen the core of our society and never to recreate the circumstances that led to that invasion. In this moment in history, by letting the perpetrators, and the politicians that benefited from it, erase the invasion from our history books we are moving away from forgiveness.
We can choose to spend our lives obsessed with settling scores with terrorists, with rivals, with noisy neighbors, with line jumpers, with the wise guy in the other lane or even within our own families. Life presents us with infinite opportunities to constantly get even or to forgive «seven times seventy» (Matthew 18:22). The choice is ours. We can live in love or we can live in hate. Both are transformative forces. We become what we value and love or we can risk becoming the evil we obsess upon. From painful personal experience, love is better.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. You can’t fake forgiveness. It’s a hard road. Our primal instincts reject it. We have to work on it. We have to pray on it. We have to commit to it, even when our instincts repeatedly keep rejecting it. It is a long painful process, not a shake-and-bake solution. It requires muscles built by the rigorous exercise of living in Christ’s love. But we have no useful option. We are not being advised to forgive by our therapist. We are being commanded to forgive by our Lord and Savior. And lest there be any room for confusion, our loving, forgiving God puts it plainly, we can forget about our own forgiveness unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart. It is the essential Christian quid pro quo… our formula for forgiveness.
We are the principle beneficiaries of our forgiveness, both in this world and the next. As followers of Jesus, we are called to forgive, to participate in reign of God by healing the brokenness of the world and reversing the curse. We are called as Disciples of Jesus to sigh over the brokenness, pray for the broken and act for their sake. And with every Lord’s Prayer that comes out of my mouth I ask God to forgive my trespasses and allow me to Act Accordingly and forgive those who trespass against me.
Because in the end, Mary’s words resonate in my heart: “ Here I am, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.»