As I reflect on Sirach’s counsel and Jesus’ parable concerning forgiveness, I am mindful that my reflection appears a week after September 11, a day of mourning and lament for those in the United States as we remember the terrorist attacks that occurred on this day in 2001. A week ago, on September 11, my class of high school seniors and I were discussing the theme of human dignity and the human person, a central tenet of Catholic Social Teaching. We were reflecting on the question, “What does it mean to be human in a world with others?” How do we meet the joy and challenge of knowing that we are created in the image of God in a diverse world?
It is easy to tell myself I am made in the image of God and God looks at me and says, “Eddie, you are very good.” I can smile knowing this goodness is God’s gift to me prior to anything I do, and that nothing I do can take it away. It is less easy, sometimes, to see this goodness in others, especially when they have caused me, or those I love, harm.
Like my senior class, I was a senior in high school on September 11, 2001. I was still learning to see myself as beloved by God. I worked at a record store at the mall, and I remember being troubled by the onslaught of patriotic CDs and xenophobic merchandise that quickly appeared on our shelves as well as similar rhetoric that dominated the news cycle.
As our nation rushed to war, my heart longed for understanding. Jesus points us towards forgiveness as another way of wielding power. Forgiveness does not exclude justice; rather, forgiveness is the companion of justice and informs our search for justice. Forgiveness allows love to shape the content of justice. And as I remind my classes every day, God is Love.
- Do you perceive the image of God in yourself? What do you do when you may struggle to perceive it in others?
Ed Sloane is originally from West Virginia. He received his Ph.D. in religious education and pastoral ministry at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. His writing focuses on approaches to education in faith through the lens of ecological justice and pastoral ministry with LGBTQIA+ youth. Ed is also a high school theology teacher.