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JAMES BEHRENS: Meaning of life can be found in acceptance, forgiveness of others

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).

It is all too human for us to gravitate toward people whom we like, people who think like us, agree with us, people who bolster our sense of the world and, unfortunately, people who may share our biases and support them.

We can go through life hemming people in and walling others out. It is so common that we tend to take it all for granted but then the day comes when we are made to realize the harm done to others by our shortsightedness.

In short, when we do not see each other as brothers and sisters, we embark on roads that lead to suffering and death.

The first reading at Mass this morning was from Daniel. It is a beautiful plea to God, a plea for mercy, for a new beginning. It is a plea for the kind of help that only God can give.

The gospel reading, from Matthew, can be taken as a response from God, who, through Jesus, says that if you want life, you must forgive. It is a package deal.

In Isaiah, chapter 55, are the words "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."

These words leave behind any hope of buddy talk with God. He is not like us. He has no favorites, does not hang around in a clique, does not live in a neighborhood of one color, one faith, one way of looking at the world.

He is and lives for and in everybody. The only way to move onto His street is to exhibit the willingness to open our house to everybody. The only currency God traffics in is forgiveness. Yet we find that kind of cash very hard to part with. But it is the only way we can ever come to really know ourselves and each other.

The meaning of life is intimately linked to our willingness to trust God's ways, take them to heart, and forgive. Those are the hallmarks of His neighborhood.

Getting there can be likened to a bus ride to the eternal -- a bus that has room for everybody, even those we at one time wanted to leave behind. It may well be those folks who find the scenery on the way familiar -- and who will rejoice that we latecomers finally hopped aboard.

Father James Stephen (Jeff) Behrens, O.C.S.O., serves at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, 2625 Ga. Highway 212 S.W., Conyers. His email address is james@trappist.net.