So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The headlines read—"Pope Francis: 'The World Needs Forgiveness'." But... .

Yes, the headlines read—"Pope Francis: 'The World Needs Forgiveness'". For example,
But... does the world know how to ask for forgiveness? Are (un)believers being taught how to ask for forgiveness? Do they (and many Catholics) even care that they need forgiveness? Are they aware that "since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24)?

The grace to forgive is a gift. Without grace, individuals and nations succumb to a lust for revenge. The ability to really and truly forgive wrongs committed against you is a gift from God. Do we pray for that gift, or are we content with the sinister sweetness of a grudge that festers and infects our whole being, giving us the illusion of control over another... while the infection eats away at us until there is little room for love in our hearts?

Priests, by virtue of ordination, possess the power to forgive sins. The Sacrament of Penance (confession, reconciliation) is a magnificent gift. How many wish they could be forgiven for something (they did years ago, perhaps), but don't have access to or haven't considered the Sacrament of Penance whereby a Catholic priest can, in the name of Jesus, absolve them of all their sins? Those of us who have experienced freedom restored after having the burden of a sin lifted from our souls know that we are truly loved by God, and that His love is real. Gratitude brimming over with joy... and maybe a smidgen of relief... is the appropriate response when one's sins have been forgiven. And freedom, and hope... .

We are reminded, commanded really, to forgive sins. Easier said than done? Then ask God for the grace to forgive someone who has done you wrong. What if you can't forgive someone for what they've done? Ask God to forgive you and go to Confession to seek absolution and the strength of the Sacrament to help you grow in mercy and love. If you earnestly repent of whatever obstacle you are putting in the way of peace and reconciliation, God will give you the grace to be renewed in heart.

Christ taught us to pray—"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We cannot expect to be forgiven if we, ourselves, cannot find the space in our hearts to forgive and love another. Perhaps the following reflection might provide a perspective on becoming more forgiving.
We do not have to like someone's actions, but liking and loving are two very distinct realities. You can love a person, but you don't have to like the way he or she behaves. Ask any mother of a badly behaved child what it means to love the child and not like his or her behaviour. We can bless the sinner, but we must not bless the sin. We can bless two people who need our love and mercy, but we must not bless the adulterous union into which the two people have entered. In other words, relying on the grace of God, we can be like Jesus Christ by generously welcoming the sinner but calling the sinner to an intimate communion with Jesus and His Church. Christ welcomed sinners but called sinners out of sin into authentic freedom and love (St. John 8:11).
And if the world rejects the message of mercy, what then? We pray, of course, for those who are in most need of Jesus' mercy. We pray not in condescension but rather in solidarity, for we know too well our own weaknesses. We trust, too, that God knows what is best. We know that the Truth sets people free. We rely on the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to work through us to invite others into a loving communion with Jesus and His Church.

The next time you complain that you are being marginalized, forgotten, maligned, cheated, bullied by a coworker, etc., remember Christ present in the tabernacle and that He is saying 'I understand; why do you, too, persecute me?' When people sin against Him, against God, Christ says 'Father, forgive them; they know not what they are doing. (St. Luke 23:24)' He shows us abundant mercy. God's "wrath", so-to-speak, is love calling us back to Him. Make no mistake—God is just. In Him there is no darkness. He wants to restore us to light. He will not, however, act upon us against our will. We must permit Him room in our lives.

God offers to us the Sacrament of Penance to bring us home again. If we accept His invitation, He throws the repentant sinner a lavish banquet of 'Welcome back!'
And the (prodigal) son said (confessed) to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you (the son acknowledged his sins); I am no longer worthy to be called your son (the son is humbled, penitent, sorry for his sins).’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found (the father restores the penitent child to life).’ And they began to make merry.—St. Luke 15:21-24
As Pope Francis reminds us in his meditation at the basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli in Assisi:
(God o)ur Father is moved to compassion whenever we repent, and (H)e sends us home with hearts calm and at peace. He tells us that all is remitted and forgiven. God’s forgiveness knows no limits; it is greater than anything we can imagine and it comes to all who know in their hearts that they have done wrong and desire to return to (H)im. God looks at the heart that seeks forgiveness.
Will we not open our hearts to such love and mercy?

May our conversations with those in most need of God's mercy be kind and true. May we be icons of God's truth and love.

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