Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Will forgiveness win out in the end?

By BISHOP BERNARD E. SHLESINGER III | Published April 15, 2021  | En Español

There is growing “cancel culture” in our world, which is very popular among those who are communicating through social media.

So what is the cancel culture? Wikipedia defines it as a “modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles whether it be online, on social media, or in person. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to have been ‘canceled’”—silenced and dismissed.

Bishop Shlesinger

Bishop Bernard E. Shlesinger III

Such a cancel culture is not Christ like in its approach because some can hold decisions or mistakes that people have made against them for life. There is no redemption for the sinner and there are no second chances. Mercy has no place in this culture and those considered unwanted or unacceptable are simply deleted.

It is important for us to remember that God does not cancel us out because we are sinners. There would be no St. Paul if there wasn’t first Saul who had persecuted the early church. St. Paul knew well how mercifully he was treated by Jesus on the road to Damascus. In the cancel culture, there would be no St. Mary Magdalene, the first to proclaim the Gospel of the Resurrection, if she had not been first dealt with mercifully by Jesus.

Yes, there are saints who seem to be without flaw and may have survived the cancel culture, for example our Blessed Mother, St. Joseph or St. Therese. But, there are so many who have a resumé that would not get them the job of leadership in the church. St. Peter was not cancelled after denying his Lord.

What is my point? Sinners preach well the Gospel! St. Mary Magdalene was the first apostle, St. Peter who denied Jesus became the first pope and St. Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles.

For all Christians, no matter how far away we think we are from God or how dead we may feel in our sins, there is no need to despair. St. John Chrysostom states: “Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.” For the sinner, backslider or the unfaithful the best may be ahead of them in the future.

We can learn from the past, but Christians can rise to newness of life with Christ at Easter, and St. Augustine reminds us “We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song.”

One of the greetings used by a bishop at the Mass is “Peace be with you!” This greeting is reserved in the liturgy for the bishop but is really a saying we should all be ready to grant. The saying has its origins in John’s Gospel at Easter when Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit on his apostles and charges them with the ministry of reconciliation and not the ministry of cancellation.

Let us therefore be aware of the cancel culture that aims at intimidating, discrediting or rejecting those who are now sent to preach the Gospel. We, who are Easter people, must continue to sing God’s praises and give a reason to the cancel culture for our hope.