Here I am, Lord. - John Michael Talbot, SFO

Jesus Christ, the man - King of kings and Lord of lords!

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Being forgiven and forgiving others are two sides of the same coin - purchasing peace, harmony and unity in the family of God.

Forgiveness! After God created Adam and Eve they had no worry except one - stay away from one fruit. When they chose to listen to satan (the name means 'deceiver' or 'liar'), they discovered that instead of becoming 'gods' they had earned death. The curse of their disobedience has followed their children ever since - bringing pain, sorrow and death.

Since then mankind has had one major concern - seeking the cleansing forgiveness of God that brings about reconciliation with Him. As 'brothers and sisters of penance' - we should do 'penance' everyday - turning from our sins and evil tendencies and looking to God for mercy and forgiveness.

Experiencing God's forgiveness results in a 'new creation' - a fresh start. In a similar manner, forgiving others can powerfully transform our relationship with them and open the door of God's heart to us! Jesus made this clear when He said, "Unless you forgive those who sin against you, you will not be forgiven."

Francis prayed; "And forgive us our debts" '. . . in Your unutterable mercy, in virtue of the sufferings of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ and at the merits and intercessions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all Your elect.' "As we forgive our debtors" '. . . and what we do not fully forgive, do You, Oh Lord, make us forgive fully, so that for Your sake we may truly love our enemies and devotedly intercede with You for them, giving no one evil in return for evil and trying to be helpful to everybody in Your Name.'

Forgiveness is necessary if one wants to re-establish the relationship of trust one had with a person prior to causing the injury. Seeking forgiveness is the only right thing to do when we have caused harm to a loved one but we also need forgiveness even if we never intended to do wrong and even if we didn't actually do wrong but the injured person feels that we did. This is what love demands - caring for the person who was hurt even if we weren't the cause of that hurt.

The goal of forgiveness is reconciliation: when that which has broken the trust between people is removed by heartfelt remorse expressed in actions and words and the trust is restored. There are two essential parts to reconciliation: being sorry and 'repenting' (to 'go back', do the opposite of that which you have done) and then asking for forgiveness. The injured party forgives by acknowledging and accepting the request for forgiveness and setting aside any legitimate claims (for punishment or compensation) against the one who hurt him. Forgiveness is something we all need ('all men have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God') and something we always need to give ('How often must I forgive my brother?!', Peter said. 'Seventy times seven, in one day and for the same sin,' was Jesus response!)

Jesus tells the powerful story of the 'Two Debtors'; A rich Lord called his debtors in to pay their debts. One came in who owed, in today's money, $1,000,000. He admitted he didn't have the money but, when told he and his family and all he owed would be sold to pay the debt, begged for time and promised to meet his obligation in full. The Lord, feeling compassion and knowing how impossible it would be for him to pay this great debt, showed mercy and forgave the whole amount - leaving him debt free! However, within minutes of leaving the Lord, the debtor saw a man who owed HIM approximately $10. He grabbed him and demanded payment. The man fell to his knees, begged for time and promised to pay it in full. However, the first man refused and threw him in prison until the debt was paid. The Lord was informed about all this and became extremely angry. He had the debtor brought to him and told him, ". . . Didn't you have an obligation to show mercy, feel pity, to another after I had forgiven you that great debt?!" He then ordered the man's family and possessions sold and put the debtor himself in prison to be tortured until the debt was fully paid. Jesus concluded, ". . . that is how My heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart!"

Francis gets straight to the point with God - 'Forgive us!', he cries. 'There is a sorrow that leads to death and a sorrow that is good and leads to life', St. Paul said. Francis focused on the sorrow that leads to life - one that results in hope and change rather than in despair and self-destruction. The way the world feels sorrow results in depression and despair so that people without faith get trapped in their sins and eventually lose hope. The sorrow that comes from God gives us hope, causes us to seek forgiveness from God and others and brings about healing reconciliation. It also causes us to 'repent' - seek a change in our lives so that we are able to avoid sin and become more like our 'Father in heaven'.

Francis focuses on the fact that God is SO merciful that no one could ever put into words how absolute His mercy is. He points out that God's mercy is what caused Jesus to pay the price for our sin. Jesus chose to meet the full demands of justice, paying the price Himself, to save us from condemnation and free us from the fear of death. Finally, in his prayer, Francis begs for the prayers and blessings of all those who reside in heaven, especially Jesus' dear Mother Mary - to be forgiven for all of his sins.

Francis continues his meditation by praying 'as we forgive our debtors'. We ask that, in the same way that we have forgiven others, God might forgive us. This principle of being forgiven after forgiving others is made clear in both the Lord's Prayer and the story of the two debtors written above.

However, Francis knows forgiving others fully is easier said than done! If we are to be forgiven in the same measure that we forgive, what happens if we don't forgive fully!? Francis knew how self-righteous we all are and also how judgmental we can be. He feared that we probably won't fully forgive and so we won't have all of our sins forgiven as well! So Francis begs God to, in effect, FORCE us to fully forgive those who have hurt us.

Francis then gives us what are the clear signs that we truly have forgiven everyone. He asks for grace to 'love our enemies'. An enemy is one who tries to harm us, who hates and wishes harm to us and delights in our misfortune and mistakes. Francis talked about looking on our enemies as our friends. He remembered Jesus' words to Judas, "My friend, why have you come?" These words were said when Judas was in the very act of betraying Jesus! Jesus (and Francis) pointed out that these persons who wish us harm may see US as their enemies but WE MUST NEVER CONSIDER OURSELVES to be their enemies. We love them because we see them as our 'friends' and, of course, we only do good to our friends! If someone does harm to us our response should be to 'pray for your enemies and do good to those who, despite your goodness to them, use you'. We 'intercede' with God for the harm they have done us - not with the focus being on the harm we have suffered but on the condemnation from God they have earned by doing us harm. Thus Francis says we 'should pray for them'

What is the final proof that we 'truly love our enemies'? Francis says we should turn away from our own temptation to return harm for harm, evil for evil, and 'try to be helpful to everyone'. Jesus said, "Do good to those who do evil to you so that you can be like your Father in heaven who is good to the evil and blesses even the unrighteous "

Prayer: Father in heaven, forgive us our sins and give us strength and wisdom to forgive others the wrong they have done us. We know we deserve death and that it is only because of the saving sacrifice of Jesus that we have hope of a blessed life here and an even more blessed one in the world to come. Help us to do penance everyday - turning from sin and evil to receive forgiveness, healing and the power to live a good and holy life. Help us to show that we truly have forgiven everyone, even our enemies, by praying that You forgive their sins and help them. We rejoice that though we owe you a million you have forgiven us the whole amount - a total we wouldn't ever be able to repay. Help us to forgive as fully and freely as You have forgiven us and to love without limit just like Your Son Jesus. You are most blessed and wonderful and good Father and we praise and thank You forever!

2 comments:

Marv Schmidt said...

God lives in the Etermal NOW, man has a past, present and future. When God forgives, the sin or Sin was never committed, when man forgives, the sin may truly be forgiven, but the memory of it still exists. Analogy, while not perfect sometimes helps understand a difficult concept.

If you break a China plate then mend it, the crack will still be there, and visible. When God mends it, the plate was never broken.

We will never be capable of true forgiveness, only God can do that. The best we can do is to resist the temptation to "bring it up" again. When you forgive someone for their actions, do not say "I'm Sorry", until AFTER you ask their forgiveness. "I'm sorry" puts you in control. "Please forgive me" gives control to the other person.

Marvin Schmidt

St. Joseph's Secular Franciscan Fraternity said...

What you say is true brother Marv. Only God can truly forgive and when He forgives it is as if it never happened in the first place.

I also appreciated what you said about 'not bringing it up'. I have forgiven everyone everything as far I can recall and yet, at times, what someone has done to me 'comes up' and the old feelings of sorrow, anger and even a touch of bitterness come up. At those times I remind myself that I have forgiven and force it out of my mind, asking for God's help. So, in a way, at those times, I must forgive again and place my wounded heart in God's hands. It seems like a never ending process!
I also like what you say about giving the other person control. But what do you do when you've asked forgiveness, tried to make amends, and they won't? I surrender it all to the God who ultimately must join his forgiveness to that of the other and who also can overide them and forgive me anyway. It doesn't relieve me of the obligation to try my best to get forgiveness from the other but it does provide ultimate forgiveness and salvation. God is good and it was very good to hear from you!

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