Saturday, December 15, 2012

Preparation...and Forgiveness: What We Can Learn from the Dallas Cowboys Accident

Yum!  This breakfast casserole is delicious.  Everyone at the table nodded in agreement.  We couldn’t talk because our mouths were full with the scrumptious egg-cheese delight. "It was my mother’s recipe," the hostess said. "I love making it because it is one of those that you can prepare the night before." Three of the twelve people at the table knew the significance of that statement; to the others, her insight fell on deaf ears. 

People who plan and host a party on a regular basis know just how critical getting things done the night before can be.  Preparing a main dish can free one up to tend to the details and enjoy the event that much more.  As John Wooden said “failing to plan is planning to fail.”

But so much planning goes unseen. We only see the fruits of their labor.  Therefore, it helps to have a reminder for how to plan and encouragement to do so.  Enter in St. John the Baptist. In the Advent Gospel, John tells us to “Prepare ye the way.”  He proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  What does this mean? 
St. John the Baptist does what Jim Heft, SM in “What Does It Mean to Be Catholic” claims that the saints do.  “Saints don't point to themselves, but to God.”  John the Baptist always points to Jesus; he leads us to Him.  He urges us to prepare our hearts for His birth because repentance is trying; forgiveness is just so difficult.  But John reminds us that with Jesus, we need not undertake such challenges alone.    

No, Christ Jesus will make the way of redemption easy for us. Depths and gorges will be filled in. Pathways and winding roads will be made straight. Rough ways will be made smooth. Jesus is our companion and He is our guide.  We are called to welcome Him into our homes and our hearts—but that requires some preparation on our part.  Such preparation will allow for the gift of joy not just on Christmas day, but also throughout the year. 

So how can we prepare?  I thought the recent tragedy—involving two Dallas Cowboy football players serves as an poignant example.
The story of the car accident caused by the DUI of Josh Brent resulting in the death of Jerry Brown is utterly tragic—it reflects irresponsibility and misfortune.  This incident marks Josh Brent’s second offense (he was pleaded guilty in 2009 for a D.U.I.).  Brent, the driver, left the scene of the accident with minor scrapes and without Jerry Brown—his college roommate, teammate and close friend.  It’s safe to say he left his hopes and aspirations with the NFL there too. 

But the story doesn’t end in the literal and symbolic deaths that occurred that night.  In an amazing act of forgiveness, the Stacey Jackson, the mother of Jerry Brown invited her son's teammate, Josh Brent, to the funeral.  Her invitation was not just lip service.  No.  According to Yahoo News Jackson asked that Brent meet the family at the airport, ride with her to the service, and sit with the family while Brown was remembered.
"I was upset, but I realized that our youth today are young and stupid, and we were all once that age, and we've all done things we're not proud of," Jackson said on Monday's "Piers Morgan Tonight" show on CNN. "I realized that everyone thinks they're invincible, and everyone thinks, 'it's not going to happen to me.' I know Josh Brent, and he's been part of our family since Jerry went to the University of Illinois -- all I can do is to pray for him and his family. I know [Brent] is hurting just as much as we are, because [he] and Jerry were like brothers."

Her invitation models forgiveness.  Her action, demonstrating forgiveness astounds me because it is so generous, it required great courage.  It is a true act of love.  But she did not do it alone.  Jackson, a Christian has Jesus as her guide.  Perhaps He made her pathway and road to her son’s funeral a little more smooth than anyone dare dreamt possible.

I cannot begin to make sense of many of the tragedies that occur in our communities and in this country.  I have no idea of how the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School can relate to forgiveness.  I do know however that for the Prince of Peace to be born in our world and in ourselves this Christmas it requires some preparation.  Some personal and communal acts of love.  The one I am working on is forgiveness.  I pray that Josh Brent can forgive himself for choices he made.  I hope our community can model the courageous invitation of Stacey Jackson--her gift to the world this Christmas season.

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