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  • Writer's pictureChristopher Looby

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023

Amish men standing near Pennsylvania State Police outside the scene of a school shooting today in Bart Township, Pa. Credit...Mike Mergen/Bloomberg News

On October 2nd, 2006, in the peaceful town of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a man named Charles Roberts walked into a one-room Amish schoolhouse.

Armed and harboring a grudge not against the innocent Amish community but carrying resentment and anger from past personal experiences, he took hostages and eventually shot ten young girls, aged between 6 and 13 years, killing five of them before taking his own life.

In a world where retribution is often the norm, the response of the Amish community was nothing short of revolutionary. In the face of unimaginable pain and loss, they chose not the path of revenge, but one of forgiveness and reconciliation.

A choice that resonates powerfully with the teachings we find in Matthew’s Gospel today, where we are reminded of the transformative power of mercy and the grace that comes with forgiving others.

The Amish community, in their profound grief, reached out to the family of the man who had inflicted so much pain upon them, offering forgiveness and understanding.

They acknowledged that the family of the shooter was also grieving, also at a loss, also suffering. They even set up a charitable fund for the shooter's family, showcasing an extraordinary act of empathy and unity, embodying Christ's call to love our neighbors, even those who may seem undeserving.

As we ponder on this act of grace, let us reflect on the deeper message of today’s gospel, that grants us the authority to bind and loose.

The Amish community, through their actions, loosed the bonds of hatred and vengeance, choosing instead to bind themselves to the divine virtues of love, compassion, and mercy.

In their gathering, in their unity of spirit, there was an evident manifestation of Christ’s presence, a testament to His words that where two or three are gathered in His name, He is there among them. In the midst of darkness, they brought forth a light, a beacon of God’s unfailing love and mercy.

As we navigate our own lives, with its trials and tribulations, may we too find the strength to choose forgiveness over revenge, love over hatred. May we embrace the authority bestowed upon us to bind and loose, embodying the teachings of Christ in our daily lives.

As we partake in this Eucharistic celebration, let us ask for the grace to be bearers of God’s light in the world, to walk the path of forgiveness, and to be instruments of His healing and reconciling love.

In this mission, may we always be comforted by the reassuring presence of Christ, who guides and strengthens us in our journey towards building a community that mirrors the heavenly kingdom, a place of love, forgiveness, and everlasting peace.

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