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A Reality-Delusional Test About Forgiveness

In clinical psychology most evaluations of mental status usually start with an examination of how accurately the patient is viewing the world -- what clinicians call reality testing. The same happens in spiritual counseling. The spiritual father or mother starts any spiritual examination by discerning if the son or daughter is deluded by pride and inaccuracy.

Here is a simple reality-delusional test that is based on a recent news story and edited for Orthodox Christians. Place yourself and your parish in the story and then answer the questions at the end.

Orthodox mourn gunman who killed children

My town, USA -- Dozens of Orthodox Christian neighbors gathered this week to mourn the quiet milkman who killed several of their parish children and wounded even more in a brief, unfathomable rampage.

John Smith, 50, was buried in his family plot behind a small community church, a few miles from the Orthodox parish school building he stormed earlier in the week.

His wife, Sally, and their three small children looked on as Smith was buried beside the colorful grave of the infant daughter whose death some years ago apparently haunted him, said Bill Brown, a fire department chaplain from out of state who attended the service.

About half of perhaps 75 mourners on hand were Orthodox Christians from the parish.

"It's the love, the forgiveness, the heartfelt forgiveness they have toward the family. I broke down and cried seeing it displayed," said Brown, who had come to the stricken community to offer what help he could. He said Sally Smith was also touched.

"She was absolutely deeply moved, by just the love shown," Smith said.

Smith stormed the Central Orthodox Christian School on Monday, releasing the 15 boys and four adults before tying up and shooting the 10 girls. Smith, who had come armed with a shotgun, a handgun and a stun gun, then killed himself.

Smiths' suicide notes and last calls with his wife reveal a man tormented by memories -- so far unsubstantiated -- of hurting two young relatives 20 years ago. He said he was also angry at God for the April 15th, 1997, death of the couple's first child, a girl named Elizabeth who lived for just 20 minutes.

One Orthodox Christian neighbor walked into the local firehouse Saturday morning and dropped a $100 bill in the collection jar in Smith's memory.

The condolences flowing into the local Post Office filled three large cartons on Saturday -- two for the Orthodox children and one for the Smith clan.

"(It's) envelopes, packages, food and a lot of cards," said a post office clerk.

More than $500,000 has been pledged, some of which is expected to cover medical costs for the children. Some remain hospitalized, and one is said to be in grave condition.

As the Sunday approached, close friends expected to spend Sunday paying visits to the victims' families.

The massacre sent out images to the world not only of the violence, but also of a little-known community, Eastern Orthodox Christians that chooses to model the love and forgiveness shown by Christ on the cross who said about his killers as He was dying for our sins, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Test questions

Does (would) this story describe me and my parish community?

If yes, stop reading. Give thanks to God. You passed the test.

If no, consider the Orthodox Church receives the Holy Mysteries from Jesus Christ. We receive spiritual food, His real Body and Blood -- His life in us. We received the "true light ... the heavenly spirit ... the true faith."

All who take this test realize it is based on a real life tragedy among the Amish people in October, 2006. The Amish people have the same scripture as Orthodox Christians. Orthodox claim to the "fullness" of Christ's gifts, but would many who call themselves Orthodox pass this test?

For those of us who failed the test, reflect on the words of St. Matthew directed toward us as Orthodox: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees [Orthodox], hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity" (Matthew 23 27-28). Consider reading all of St. Matthew's 23rd chapter.

Consider the words of Jesus that we must apply to ourselves, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away" (Matthew 13: 11-12).

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Fr. George Morelli
Antiochian Department of Chaplain and Pastoral Ministry

V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist.

Fr. Morelli is the Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion.

Fr. Morelli is a Senior Fellow at the Sophia Institute, an independent Orthodox Advanced Research Association and Philanthropic Foundation housed at Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City that serves as a gathering force for contemporary Orthodox scholars, theologians, spiritual teachers, and ethicists.

Fr. Morelli serves on the Executive Board of the San Diego Cognitive Behavior Therapy Consortium (SDCBTC)

Fr. Morelli serves as Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.

Fr. Morelli is the author of:

Healing – Volume 1
Orthodox Christianity
and Scientific Psychology

Click to order
Eastern Christian Publications
$15.00
Healing – Volume 2
Reflections for Clergy
Chaplains, and Counselors

Click to order
Eastern Christian Publications
$25.00
Published: October 11, 2006

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