Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself. (Rom 14:7)
Unforgiveness in our heart is akin to a big sign that says, “demons welcome”. Life trauma can make it very difficult to forgive[i]. Yet St. Paul’s wisdom challenges us to think about being other-centered, and Lent is the time to develop this. As Christians sincerely wanting to follow Jesus, we try to be cognizant of the needs of others. Yet our own neediness remains in the background begging attention, and this neediness quite often comes from our woundedness. To live and to die for Jesus is to live and to die for others, even those who are difficult to forgive. As Deacon Paternostro aptly puts it:
“Grudges are satisfying while we are thinking about them, but they leave a horrible aftertaste. As we nurse them, we are able to think of all the ways we are right and superior. When we are done thinking over the offending scenario, however, we are simply left with frustration and anger that we only want to be rid of. The problem is that we think of how right we are in the moment, and we relish that feeling for as long as it lasts—until the crash afterwards. It is the paradox that Sirach identifies in the first reading today: “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight” (Sir. 27:30). We despise what we are holding onto, but cannot resist holding onto it.” … “Our very salvation is at stake if we don’t let go of our anger.” [ii]
This is the key to forgiveness. We must first desire to truly forgive the other person (and not just because others expect us to!). Since all desire comes from God, we must ask for this first until we have let Him fill us with sincerity. He has given us in our own nature the ability to do so intellectually. So, with His actual Grace, we reach some tranquility, some level of forgiving the other person.
That is, until we actually must spend time with them again, and then something triggers the pain. What is forgiveness if it’s so quick to fade away?
“So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.” (MT 18:35)
True and full forgiveness comes from the heart, and we aren’t capable of that on our own. Forgiveness isn’t an act in itself. It is an outcome of love in action. And we cannot manufacture love, only God can. So, we must ask Him for the love needed for the other person, and out of that love will come our ability to forgive. In this way, forgiveness moves from the head to the heart, as only the Holy Spirit can do.
“God speaks in the silence of the heart, and we listen.
And then we speak to God from the fullness of our heart, and God listens.
And this listening and this speaking is what prayer is meant to be….”
But here’s the catch: there must be room in your heart for the Love to forgive. And that takes healing. It requires time in silent mental prayer going with God into the places you’d rather not go. The Holy Spirit who teaches us to pray will reveal to you what is holding you back from forgiving, and in this time alone with God you can profess it to Him, the one who already knows this is in your heart and is waiting for you with open arms. This surrendering and emptying to God provides the space for Grace, and He will lavish you with love overflowing to the extent of your surrender. So don’t hold back!
“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy times seven.”
Forgiveness, then, isn’t an act or an action. It is a process, and is ongoing for two reasons: (1) God’s love is infinite and so we can never have enough love for the other person; we must always ask for more; and (2) if we step out of the process, we risk stepping out of love for them.
We can see that the process of forgiveness is one of healing, and what is healing if not sanctification? [iii]
Which brings up the sacraments, through which healing comes into full fruition. Recalling that God won’t force His love on us because, well, that would be unloving and controlling, He waits for us in the sacraments. As with the saints before him and since, St. Ignatius of Loyola often directed that mass and confession will aid whatever situation was at hand. Continue then to pray for Pope Francis, all clergy and those on the path, our religious and worldwide Church.
Mary, Mother of Jesus, throw your mantle of purity over our priests.
Protect them, guide them, and keep them in your heart.
Be a Mother to them,
especially in times of discouragement and loneliness.
Love them and keep them belonging completely to Jesus.
Like Jesus, they, too, are your sons, so keep their hearts pure and virginal.
Keep their minds filled with Jesus, and put Jesus always on their lips,
so that he is the one they offer to sinner and to all they meet.
Mary, Mother of Jesus, be their Mother,
loving them and bringing them joy.
Take special care of sick and dying priests, and the ones most tempted.
Remember how they spent their youth and old age,
their entire lives serving and giving all to Jesus.
Mary, bless them and keep a special place for them in your heart.
Give them a piece of your heart, so beautiful and pure and immaculate,
so full of love and humility, so that they, too, can grow in the likeness of Christ.
Dear Mary, make them humble like you, and holy like Jesus. Amen. (by Mother Teresa) [iv]
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam 😊
[i] Kick Butt! The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare (Frontline Defense Strategies for Everyday Living) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08T86NRG5/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i2
[ii] Deacon David C. Paternostro, S.J. http://www.hprweb.com/2017/08/homilies-for-september-2017/
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