Offering Grace and Peace
Updated: Jan 22
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B - 24 January 2021
While the story of Jonah was written long before Jesus walked the earth, his story is a good example of how God calls us to live as followers of Christ. When God first calls Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and proclaim repentance, Jonah disagrees with God. He doesn’t like the Ninevites because they are a sinful people. He doesn’t want God to extend mercy to them. So he runs away from God. Yet God relentlessly pursues Jonah, and Jonah eventually concedes to God’s will. Despite Jonah’s contempt of the Ninevites, he goes into Ninevah and begins preaching repentance. After just one day they proclaim a fast and put on sackcloth, practices expressing sorrow and atonement. God saw how the Ninevites turned from their sinful ways and mercifully forgave them.
Like Jonah, we too often condemn others. Our world promotes competition, which is focused on what’s best for “me.” Too often, the focus on “me” and “my rights” leads to the contempt and even oppression of others. We disagree with others to the point of condemning them because “I’m right and you’re wrong.” Sometimes condemnation of others gets violent.
To live as a Christian is to live differently than the world lives. Christ calls us to a new understanding and a different lived reality. To be Christian is to live Love. Living Love means we don’t condemn others. Judgment and condemnation, accusation and blame are NOT and NEVER are of Christ. If we are to be Christ in the world, we must live Love, recognizing the inherent goodness and dignity in every human person . . . even if we disagree with them or don’t like them.
To live as a Christian is to recognize the presence of God in every person and wish them grace and peace. The Hebrew word for “grace” is chanan, which means “to bend or stoop in kindness to another." The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom, which means “to wish harmony, wholeness, completeness, and well-being on another.” When we wish others grace and peace, we bow to – humble ourselves in – the presence of God within them and offer them deep, holistic well-being. When we disagree with someone, rather than argue, we patiently listen to and try to understand their perspective, which can open our hearts and minds to a new, more collaborative perspective. If we see someone living contrary to their God-created dignity, we follow Jesus’ example of encounter: We look with compassion upon them, love them, and invite them into a new way of being, to live in the love of God and “go and sin no more.”
May we be beacons of Christ’s hope and light in the darkness of our broken and sinful world. May we practice living Love by recognizing Christ in every person, praying for them, listening to them, and humbling ourselves to offer them the grace and peace of Christ.
Practices for Offering Grace and Peace
Whenever you meet someone, silently say to them, “Hello, Christ” or “Hello, Child of God.”
Listen to understand (Active Listening): - Focus your attention on the other person and what they are saying. Pay attention to their non-verbal cues. Don’t think about your response while they are talking. Don’t interrupt or offer solutions. - Show that you’re listening: Eye contact, body posture toward the other person. Provide feedback. Paraphrase what the person said. Ask for clarification. Affirm emotions they express. Keep an open mind. Defer judgment. Don’t jump to conclusions. - When you find yourself getting upset or angry over something someone is saying or doing, take a deep breath and pray “God, why is this upsetting me or making me angry?” Then pause to be quiet and listen for God’s illumination and inspiration. (This is the equivalent to “Count to ten.”)
Consider the life of the other person. What might have influenced their perspective? Think about what has influenced your perspective. Keep in mind that your perspective is not the only perspective.
Remember that it’s okay to walk away if you get too upset or if the other person is being belligerent. Just make sure you communicate with the person that the conversation is getting too emotional and you need time to process what s/he is saying.