Sunday, September 11, 2011

Forgiving Heals

Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-23)
Do you think God is trying to get our attention?
When I saw the readings this week, I could hardly believe it. On this day of all days, the Mass readings are all about forgiveness and compassion and mercy. On this day, the 10th anniversary of 9-11, Jesus gives us a strong message.
Not only must we forgive, but we must keep on forgiving!
So I find myself asking - Do I have to be forgiving today, Lord? Can't I wait until tomorrow?
But then I read the second reading - if we live, we live for the Lord. (Rom 14:8)
And I know in my heart of hearts, if I really want to live for the Lord, then I have to forgive.
I am no stranger to forgiving what seems to be impossible to forgive.
Forgiving my father - for sexually abusing me for years - has been a lifelong process more than a one-time event. I know it is through grace that I have been able to forgive him at all.
And what I have learned is that I have to make the decision first and then I need to ask Jesus to help me. And I may need to go through it many times. Maybe even 77 times.
It all comes down to one common denominator. We cannot do it alone. We need Jesus.
Isn't that what Jesus meant when he said he came to heal the sick? Was he talking about the flu? Or was he talking about those inner wounds that threaten to separate us from God? 
And wouldn't unforgiveness be one of those wounds?
Lord, you have my attention. Help me to forgive. Help me to know when I still have unforgiveness in my heart. Help us all to heal from loss and hurt and fear and prejudice. Heal the families and friends of those who died on 9-11. I love you, Lord. Help me to love like you love. Amen.
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11 comments :

Sue Elvis said...

Colleen,
I had thought that this passage from the Bible meant we must, if necessary, forgive a person each time they offend us even if the occasions of offence are very numerous. Then today I was wondering if it could also refer to us forgiving someone many times for the same debt. After reading your book and this post, I realise that forgiveness is not necessarily a one time action. One sin against us may require more than one act of forgiveness from us. I had assumed that if we had to forgive again and again for the same debt, our forgiveness couldn't have been sincere in the first place. I hope you understand all this because I am having great trouble putting it in words. I am doing a lot of pondering here...

God bless and thank you so much for writing your book. I need to thank you properly in a longer way. Maybe I will get the oppportunity.

God bless you!

Colleen @ ID said...

Colleen, the story of Corrie Ten Boom forgiving, Immaculée Ilibagiza forgiving, you forgiving your Father, the Holy Father forgiving the assassin are hard to process without faith and love for our Merciful God.
I did re-read your post on forgiving your father, and it strikes me again that while Jesus forgave the paralytic straight-out, "Your sins are forgiven", while he was being tortured and dying for our sins, he did not say, "I forgive you," straight-out. I don't know if that is because in becoming the redeeming sacrifice he did not act on his power as God to forgive sins, or if in his humanity and deep suffering, this was the example he wanted to leave us, "Father, forgive them." It seems like there is something there, that I am not smart enough, or learned enough, or spiritual enough to comprehend yet, but it really gives me pause. Thank you for the post. It is really important. I think the reason this comes up so much is God really will me merciful to us in the way we are merciful to others. He wants to give us the fullness of our mercy, and the priest's who preach this Gospel the way it is supposed to feel that responsibility to communicate clearly it is a requirement for us to forgive so that we can be forgiven, healed, and whole, and learn to love as God loves.

Michael said...

I, too, was taken aback when I realized the theme of the readings today.

Sometimes God has to hit us over the head with His message, huh?

God Bless you

Colleen said...

Sue, thank you so much for your great comment.
That is what I have learned through my experience of forgiving my father - that it comes in bits and pieces - that it is a process. One priest explained to me that there are layers upon layers to my wounds, and it is when I discover a new layer, I have to forgive again. When new layers come up, i experience the pain and hurt and anger all over again. For hurts this deep, it lasts a lifetime. That is one of the reasons why survivors of child sexual abuse usually come out years later with their accusations. For years we live on the surface.
Thanks for sharing your pondering!

Colleen said...

Colleen, whenever something gives me pause as this does for you, then I know that God is really trying to get my attention!
I think there is a lot to what you are saying about how Jesus said - Father, forgive them. Thank you for sharing this in your comment as I had never thought of that meaning before. Before learning of Corrie's story, I had not even known that we could ask God to forgive someone for us when it is just too hard.
Forgiveness really is important - for all of us. Thank you for your great comment!

Michael, Yes, he does!! And that is exactly how my husband started his homily today! :)
Thank you!!

Athanasius contra mundum said...

Forgiveness is a constant struggle for me, but I always try to remember two passages, Matthew 6:14 and Romans 12:19-21.
As Sue pointed out though, forgiveness is not a one time event, and maintaining that forgiveness and not going back to anger is the hardest part.
We should remember though, something good comes out of every tragedy.

Colleen said...

Contra, thank you for visiting my blog! I agree - God brings good out of everything. Thanks for the bible verses. God bless.

Kathleen Basi said...

Wow, Colleen@ID's comment is really thoughtful--I'd never thought of that, either!

Colleen S., your thoughts are very helpful. I struggle with forgiving people, too...wrote about that this week, in fact, in the same context of last week's readings. I like what you say about forgiveness--the act of will followed by the prayer to make it possible, and doing it again and again. That's where I am in this process. Your words affirm me.

Colleen said...

Kathleen, I am so glad that my words affirm you. Thank you for letting me know that. God bless.

noreen said...

It was very poignant that the forgiveness reading was on the anniversary of 9-11. Forgiveness is an act of the will in obedience to Christ. It can be so difficult at times but "if we live, we live for the Lord." It's our faith that gets us through.
God bless!

Colleen said...

Noreen, amen! Thank you! God bless!