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Religion Column

September 18, 2011

We have divergent views, but we must come back together to heal

We are passing through a very difficult time in our history, as a nation and as a community within that nation. Pent-up frustration, fear and anger are overwhelming civility in public discourse. Nationally, our leaders vilify those who do not agree with them ideologically. They accuse each other of undermining the fundamentals of our country's greatness and ascribe political motives. They seem oblivious to the personal harm they are doing as they impugn the reputations of those who disagree with them. They also show no respect for the public offices to which their opponents were duly elected and appointed. They seem willing to bring down our entire society and economy simply because we have disparate views and will not conform to a single political, social or economic ideology. For them, the majority does not rule and the established remedies in our political processes are inadequate.

In our own community, there have been a number of issues that have polarized us recently. Two of the more glaring relate to our future environmental viability and to how the prosecution of a serious crime has impacted our personal and social standards of behavior. While both of these issues are important and significant, their courses of development and resolution have been very distinct. Our ecological concerns are being addressed for the most part in lively public debate that is centered on the efficacy of the proposals presented. Both sides are very passionate, but in general they have taken the high road and we are the better for it.

In stark contrast, the concerns surrounding what is arguably the most significant local, criminal case in recent memory continue to spiral downward in a vortex of hatred and revenge. The matter has been fully adjudicated. Nevertheless, the public sniping continues. With the legal case no longer at issue, the public passion has degenerated to personal attacks on character and motivation.

All three of these scenarios point to the same conclusion. We are a passionate people with divergent views. Our history binds us as a society in the belief that we are stronger together than we could ever be individually. Implicit in this is our understanding that when matters are settled, we must come back together. This is what we call healing.

Healing is a process, and it is somewhat deceptive. Wounds seem to close early when in fact the process beneath the surface may continue a lot longer. Healing also leaves scars that only fade with time but never really disappear. In fact, our scars serve as a reminder of the harm that was done, so we never really forget. Even when we are declared "good as new," we will continue to feel a twinge of pain or some soreness, every now and then.

The speed and success of healing depends on a number of things apart from our natural ability to heal. If the wound is cleaned and wrapped, it will improve faster. If it is picked and left exposed, it will become infected and the entire body will suffer.

In the human body, healing is both a process and goal. In the realm of the human spirit, healing is the process, but peace is the goal. No matter how dire the consequences or how deep the hurt, our spirit must heal and each of us must come to peace. Only when we are at peace are we able to discern the truth. Only then are we able to perceive God's wisdom in the ordinary events of our life. Only then can we know what he would have us do and gain the courage to go forward.

The fact that the pace of healing is different in each of us suggests it is a very personal matter. All of us need space and time to commune with God, to seek his counsel and bring about the changes in our life that will restore us to peace. We must end the influence in our life of those who espouse hatred, defamation and revenge. We must be especially vigilant of those who ostensibly call for healing but whose comments are laced with innuendo ascribing guilt, responsibility and hidden agenda to others.

Nothing significant, lasting and good has ever come to a society from the top down. When Jesus spoke on behalf of his father, he spoke to the common folk. When he encountered his disciples after his resurrection he said, "Peace be with you. Do not be afraid." We should take comfort in these words and move forward beyond our fears with courage.

It is said that when healing is complete, the scar tissue that remains is stronger than the ordinary skin surrounding it. These struggles will make our community stronger and better, but only when the healing is complete and we are at peace again.

Randy Velez is a local Catholic deacon.

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