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Step 9: Making amends

9—Made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others (Justice or Discipline)

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 5: 1-12

When Jesus[a] saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

The Word of God for the People of God. Thanks be to God.

A reading from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Richard Rohr, 2011, Franciscan Media, p. 76; 79-80)

What the Western religions sometimes called “wisdom,” the Eastern religions often called “skillful means.” Wisdom is not a mere aphorism in the head, but a practical, best, and effective way to get the job done!…Jesus was a master teaching skillful means, especially in his Sermon on the Mount, and in many of his -parables and one-liners. Be we got so preoccupied with needing to prove and worship Jesus’ divinity that we failed to let him also be a sage, a wise man, a teacher of commonsense spiritual wisdom.

Finally, something about truth, truth-telling, and deceit: Truth, is not just “what happened” but also what you or any party has a right to know—and can handle responsibly. For an addict, a gay person, a person with a preexisting physical ailment, there are people who have a right to that knowledge, and frankly people for whom it is none of their business, and people who will misuse it…

Skillful means is not just to make amends but to make amends in ways that “do not injure others.” Truth is not just factual truth (the great mistake of fundamentalists), but a combination of both text and context, style and intent.

A reading from Serenity: A Companion for Twelve Step Recovery (1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pp.62-63)

The making of amends needs to be approached cautiously by codependent people. There are three things amends are or can be. There is one thing they definitely should not be. Amends can be these things: 1) Sincere efforts to offer apology for past harm. 2) Wonderful bridge-builders for more positive future relationships. 3) Effective agents for removing the tremendous weight of guilt, shame, and remorse.

The one thing amends should never be, though, are installment payments on false guilt or false shame. To treat them in that way is to drift into a kind of legalism and perfectionism that believes if we can do enough or apologize enough, we can somehow earn our own redemption and salvation. This is a particular danger for codependent persons who already tend to assume guilt for people and situations over which they have no real control.

The second half of this step is very important in that it identifies a group to which we should not offer amends, that is, to those who would be more hurt than helped by our action.

HOMILY                                                        Pastor Melissa Lemons

Some days I feel the Holy Spirit working in these homilies more than others. When I selected the Beattitudes for today’s reading I didn’t know that Rev. Richard Rohr had written about them in relation to Step 9. I didn’t know that the Beattitudes would not only address making amends as a form of peace-making, but that the mourning related to living and the failures in relationships would also emerge. It’s confluences like these that keep me hopeful that God is working through this afternoon service.

This 9th Step is one that directly engages us with others who may not be ready to accept us as we are or believe that we have changed enough to make amends. I know I’ve been in situations where I wasn’t ready to receive an apology or I doubted that the other person was really sorry. Forgiveness is a process and making amends can take time. Also, the timing for me and for those I’ve harmed may not line up just right.

The important thing is that we recognized the fault and reached out. We may not get the respone we want or not when we want it and that has to be ok too. One of our readings cautions that some people may try to take advantage of our remorse and willingness to make amends. It may be difficult to recognize our vulnerability or suggestibility in these cases.

Please be patient with yourselves. Give yourself compassion as you try to reach out to others in care and trust.

Thanks be to God.

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