“If everyone was an atheist, would the world be a better place?”
I have never been asked that question, until last Friday at a large discussion group in Moama. Would it?
I began the reply by suggesting that we do not have any evidence that ‘the world’ was atheist at any particular time or that the people in small or large countries were totally atheist, even if their rulers professed atheism. The last century had a number of professed atheists: Mao, Stalin (despite his early days in the seminary), Pol Pot to name a few; and even with them we don’t know what was in their mind when they died.
What we do know is that some form of belief in the supernatural, in a ‘God’, in a higher spirit, has been found in all cultures and that there is some evidence that if worship was not offered to the particular deity on certain occasions, then the punishment was severe.
The concept of forgiveness was not highly regarded by all in many cultures. Peter, the spokesman, is struggling to come to grips with forgiving seven times. The eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, or payback systems, was firmly entrenched in his society despite the teaching of the Prophets, as it was in the Roman world in which he lived.
It has been suggested that the concept of seventy times seventy, or forgiveness without limits, is one of the greatest teachings given to the world by our founder who dramatically fulfilled the talk by the walk to Calvary…”forgive them Father” from the Cross is surely gold-plated action.
Both our ability and inability to forgive is measured by our inherited teaching and example of Christ. It has set Christianity apart from other faiths. Its practise has admirers and catcalls follow our failures to forgive.
Last Sunday’s Gospel is complimented by today’s passage. This Sunday remind s us that reconciliation is very much our business despite our forgetfulness at times, our refusal on other occasions, and our inability to offer the hand of friendship. Again, our reflections during the recent Year of Mercy may assist us in being agents of reconciliation during these bruising times of social debate in our beloved Australia.
“The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.”