The current wallpaper on my desktop is a picture of wizened hands holding a flower. The inscription above the hands reads "Forgive everyone for everything." Now that is a tall order, to be sure!
I mention this because I just witnessed a profound and simple act of forgiveness. Apparently there was a misunderstanding between two of my dear female friends. Something was said, something else was not communicated, and hard feelings ensued. Today, the two ladies apologized to one another for their misstep. I am so proud that they are my friends. Neither one of them talked about the other behind her back. Both took responsibility for their own part. Neither blamed the other. They both then affirmed each other. There were a few tears, and a proud friend and priest.
I LOVE FORGIVENESS
Not just the idea of it...
Not just the fact that Jesus forgives...
And not even just the fact that it is our Christian Duty to forgive...
What I love is that when we forgive everyone for everything WE ARE FREE.
- The act of forgiving is a true participation in the humility and mercy of God. It is really difficult to forgive someone who has grievously harmed us. Gosh, it is hard to forgive someone who just ticked us off. It takes humility. It takes courage. It takes the grace of God to truly forgive from the heart. By forgiving others we are keeping God in first place and the good of others in second place. Forgiveness is NOT being a doormat or excusing harmful and sinful actions in others.
- Forgiving is a healing act. Relationships heal. Memories are healed. Souls are mended and healed. Even bodies are healed. It is well known that many physical ailments are caused by a lack of forgiveness. Just think about how you feel when someone you are angry with enters the room. Your neck tightens. You get that knot in your stomach. Headaches may ensue. Some people get stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, or even cancer. Everyone who persists in unforgiving has a crabby attitude. I know from first hand experience the effect of refusing to forgive someone. For well over a year I resisted the Lord's pleas for me to forgive people who had deeply hurt me and damaged my priesthood by the abuse of their power. I held on to my righteous anger. During those 16 months my health suffered, and my prayer life diminished. My vocation to the priesthood nearly died. My love for people morphed into suspicion of their motives. One day a dear friend of mine, Sr. Joan of the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth privately challenged me to forgive and ask the other party who was responsible for much of my suffering to forgive me. I knew it was the voice of the Lord speaking through this humble and loving servant of God. I prayed, took her advice and...did it. What sweet relief. The burden lifted. My spirit soared as my prayer life came back. The anger had enslaved me, not the others.
- Forgiving is a saving act. "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us," we read in Sacred Scripture. What an honor to participate in this Divine Economy in which the Lord purchased for us our salvation at the price of His Most Precious Blood. He, having made the purchase, bequeaths to us this gift for our personal needs and to share with others who are equally needful of God's forgiveness.
Of course, this beautiful exchange takes place most specifically in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, also known as Confession or Penance. Here God uses the priest to minister the forgiveness of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. I "get" to offer God's mercy and forgiveness to people. I utter the words "I absolve you..." in amazement. It is so beautifully humbling to be in that role as a priest. People may be inspired by a homily or a word of counsel...or not. They may like the personality or spiritually of an individual priest...or not. When it comes to the Sacrament of Confession there is no "may" and no "or not". When the words of absolution are prayed for you by a Roman Catholic Priest YOU ARE FORGIVEN. Jesus made that promise to us in the Bible when He breathed on His apostles, the first priests, and said, "receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven."
We most clearly model our Savior when we forgive. We are most authentically the Body of Christ when we humbly ask for, give and receive forgiveness. Forgive everyone for everything!