Lent is About Forgiveness Is 43:16-21; Phil 3:8-14; John 8:1-11
Dr. A.J. Cronin was a great Christian physician in England. One night he assigned a young nurse to a little boy who had been brought to the hospital suffering from diphtheria, and given only a slight chance to live. A tube was inserted into the boy’s throat to help him breathe. It was the nurse’s job periodically to clean out the tube.
As the nurse sat beside the boy’s bed, she accidentally dozed off. She awakened to find that the tube had become blocked. Instead of following instructions, she was immobilized by panic. Hysterically she called the doctor from his home. By the time he got to the boy, he was dead. Dr. Cronin was angry beyond expression. That night Dr. Cronin went to his office and wrote his recommendation to the board demanding the immediate expulsion of the nurse. He called her in and read it, his voice trembling with anger. She stood there in pitiful silence, a tall, thin, gawky Welsh girl. She nearly fainted with shame and remorse.
“Well,” asked Dr. Cronin in a harsh voice, “have you nothing to say for yourself?” There was more silence. Then she uttered this pitiful plea, “…please give me another chance.” Dr. Cronin sent her away. But he could not sleep that night. He kept hearing some words from the dark distance: “Forgive us our trespasses.”
The next morning Dr. Cronin went to his desk and tore up the report. In the years that followed he watched as this slim, nervous girl became the head of a large hospital and one of the more honored nurses in England. Thank God for a second chance, and a third chance, and fourth chance! Do you need to encounter God’s forgiveness? He died on a cross to make it available. Taken from Vatican Radio (Source: Homilies of Fr. Anthony Kadavil)
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we simply can’t get along with everybody. If we are lucky, we have good relationships with our family and friends and in-laws, but every once in awhile, there is someone who becomes a literal ‘thorn in our side.’ Sometimes, it is apparent why this happens. But other times, as much as we analyze and pick the relationship apart, conversation by conversation, we can’t understand totally why this happens. Call it karma, call it fate, call it ‘that’s life in the big city’ ~ it can play havoc with our lives. This is especially so, if it is a family member, a spouse, or an in-law. What do you do when it is a sibling, a parent or God forbid, a spouse?
I was immersed in a dysfunctional relationship where emotions on both sides overrode logic. I tried my best to avoid social encounters with this person. When I couldn’t or didn’t, I either bit my tongue in all conversations, held back lashing back to a minimum, or feigned sickness to avoid meetings. On occasion, I worked more, socialized less or buried myself in a book.
When this person was present, I felt stressed and prayed that the day turned out okay and not into a fiasco. Others were counting on me to mend the gap and just ‘keep cool’ or ‘chill out’ or anything short of sitting on me and duct-taping my mouth. They told me silence was golden. Even silence was stressful.
I tried many different avenues of being civil, thinking it may work out. But, when it didn’t work out, there was always a ‘stress’ situation.
This was a ‘long-history person’ in my life. We simply were like mixing oil and water. We always were. Words spoken were not taken the way they were meant. Get togethers became strained. Attempts to make it better made it worse; and the chasm opened wide and threatened to swallow us.
This relationship caused additional spiritual stress for me: didn’t God tell us to forgive seventy times seven? Aren’t we supposed to ‘love one another as He loves us”? How could I reconcile this fractured relationship with my faith? How could I change into something I wasn’t or accept what I couldn’t. I knew I could not or want to change this person. Over time, it was apparent it was futile and there was no solution.
One day, at church service, there was a vtisiting minister. His topic was “You Can’t Get Along With Everybody.” I was all ears. His sermon was loving, prayerful, scriptural and reality. He looked out at all of us and said, “You have to face the fact that you won’t get along with everybody in life – it could even be someone close, a loved one or even a child of yours or a parent. You simply will not have a good relationship with him or her.”
And then he offered, “Even Jesus did not get along with everyone. As a native Nazarene, he was not always welcome in his own neighborhood; people mocked him that “he was a carpenter’s son – how can he think he is a Son of God; we knew him as a child playing. Jesus left his hometown and started traveling with his ministry. And when he and/or the Apostles were not welcome in a town, he told them to ‘wipe the dust off their feet’ and move on.”
I talked with the minister after the service and told him how badly I felt about this relationship that I just couldn’t seem to embrace or change. He answered, “There are some relationships you can’t fix. Thank God they are few, but they simply will never be what they are supposed to be. Sometimes you have to walk away and leave them. Withdraw from them; they will eventually harm you. Wipe the dust from your feet and move on.” BUT,…he continued….”Always ~ ALWAYS, pray for that person, forgive them and forgive yourself. But always pray for them.”
This minister was not suggesting that I disregard any and all people that I had difficulty with and wipe them off like dust. We are all imperfect. And this wasn’t a case of one being right or one being wrong – we were simply incompatible.
I found a serene feeling of letting go that day. And I followed his advice. I also began praying for that person. And that was very difficult for me. The first few prayers were stifled and stiff and seemed to get stuck in my throat. It felt so insincere. But I kept at it and in time, sincerely meant the prayer. I pray for this person to this day. I pray for peace and well-being. I remind myself that they are loved as a child of God just as I am.
With my change in attitude and prayer, I feel differently about this person. We may never be close or never see each other again, but the awful feelings of animosity and dread are gone. There is no judgment or blame here — it’s just that….”As one face differs from another, so does one’s heart.”
But even different hearts can learn to live in peace with themselves. “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Louis B. Smedes
Practically every parish I know of is struggling with how to evangelize, how to bring people back to the Church. This Easter offers us a perfect opportunity. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics will be sitting in the pews for the first time since Christmas or Ash Wednesday. How can we get them to come back? What message can we give them to bring them back to the faith? What is it that they most need to hear?
What better message can we give them that they can start over? Isn’t this a perfect time to tell them of God’s infinite love and mercy? Isn’t this the perfect time to teach about the Feast of Divine Mercy? So often we wait until the Feast of Divine Mercy when we are preaching to the choir but it is the Christmas and Easter people who most need this message. How many of them know that the Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Divine Mercy?
How many of them know the promises Jesus made through St. Faustina. On that day the floodgates of heaven will open. He promised that grace upon grace will be poured upon the earth. On this feast He wants to bless us beyond our imagination. He wants to wipe out all the punishment for our sins. We can be like a newly baptized person. All of our sins and their punishment can be wiped out. It doesn’t matter how great a sinner we are. Jesus wants to set us free.
This is awesome news. We should be shouting it from the rooftops. Our Easter bulletins and messages should be about the Divine Mercy message. Lay people should be emailing everyone they know especially our lost children. Our churches should be so packed that extra masses and confession times need to be scheduled.
Think about it! We can start over!! It doesn’t matter if we’ve been away from the church for thirty years. It doesn’t matter if we’ve forgotten how to go to confession. Jesus wants to drown us in His mercy, to pour His grace upon us. What better news can we give to the Christmas and Easter people?
In the 1930’s Jesus appeared to a humble Polish nun, St. Faustina and practically begged people to come to Him and trust in His mercy. He passionately wants our salvation. He passionately wants us in heaven with Him. It was at His request that the Feast of Divine Mercy was formally established by John Paul II. He tried to make it as simple as possible for us to receive His graces.
How do we do this? What does Jesus ask of us? He calls us to true contrition for our sins? We need to make a good confession as close to the feast as possible and receive the Lord in the Eucharist. We are called to pass on God’s Mercy to others through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Jesus desires us to celebrate and accept His Mercy. We are called to trust in Him.
We live in a world desperate for God’s Mercy. Turn on the news and learn about another disaster, tsunamis, earthquakes, nuclear dangers, wildfires, rebellions. All of us are uneasy and afraid. We need to trust in God’s Mercy. We need to pray for God’s mercy. We need to get other people to pray for God’s Mercy.
So often we are tempted to wait until later, maybe next Easter we will tell people about God’s Mercy. But what if this year will be the last opportunity for someone to take advantage of the Feast? What if this is someone’s last Easter, their last opportunity to hear this message? Can we afford to wait?