Forgiveness lies at the heart of what it means to be a person of faith. We know that we are forgiven by God, but the process of forgiveness does not stop there. Because God has forgiven us, we are called to witness to that gift by being people who forgive. God places a “new heart” within us, removing our hearts of stone and giving us hearts capable of forgiveness (Ez. 11:14-21). As people of faith, we share this gift of forgiveness.
But forgiveness is not easy. This “new heart” we are given unfolds over the course of our life of faith. Forgiveness takes work. It is an act of the will; a decision to let go of the desire to get even with someone who has hurt us.
During a recent retreat, we discussed 12 steps to forgiveness (paraphrased from http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive). These are not “magic”; but they can be helpful tools as we work to grow in our ability to embrace God’s forgiveness and spread forgiveness to those around us. These twelve steps, with the help of God’s grace, can help us heal from the pain and resentment that often gets in the way of forgiveness.
- Remember that holding a grudge only hurts yourself. As Nelson Mandela said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy.”
- “Getting even” is not as important as “moving on.” Sometimes the best revenge on an “enemy” is to move beyond the pain they have helped cause and live a happy, successful life.
- Remember God brings good out of evil (Cf. Rom. 8:28). If we live through the pain there is no need to “get even.” Instead, we can use the experience to become people of profound character and compassion.
- Look at the situation from a positive perspective. There is good to be found in even the worst experience or situation. It can be helpful to make a list of 10 positive outcomes that came out of the experience.
- Look for helpers. Who were the people who helped you in the painful situation? Sometimes naming them and offering a prayer of thanks to God for putting them in your life can help healing occur. Write them a note or tell them how grateful you are for their support. These simple actions can open your heart to the power of forgiveness. They can also empower you to be a helper when you see someone else hurting.
- Be gentle with yourself. Sometimes forgiving ourselves can be the most difficult part of forgiveness. If we recognize that we are wounded and need healing, we can allow God’s grace to begin to heal us. “Eat well. Rest. Focus on the natural beauty in the world. Give yourself permission to feel the emotions and process them. Don’t bottle up the pain” (http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive).
- Recognize that forgiveness frees you. The Aramaic word for forgiveness means to “untie.” By forgiving, you become free to love in new and deeper ways.
- Being forgiving doesn’t mean being foolish. Forgiving someone does not mean that you should trust them or allow them to hurt you again. If the person who harmed you is truly repentant then reconciliation is possible. “An offender who wants reconciliation must do his or her part: offer a sincere apology, promise not to repeat the offense (or similar ones), make amends, and give it time. If you don’t see repentance, understand that according forgiveness to that person is a benefit to yourself, not to the offender” (http://www.wikihow.com/Forgive).
- Stop repeating “the story” to yourself and others. While it is important to be able to share your feelings with trusted friends, there comes a time when repeating the story is just binding yourself more and more to the pain and resentment. Break the cycle of negativity and stop repeating the story.
- Tell “the story” from the other person’s point of view. While this may seem to contradict #9 above, in reality it can help build empathy for the other person and aid in the process of forgiveness.
- Retrain your heart and mind. The goal of forgiveness is to respond to Jesus’ teaching to “Love your enemies” (Mt. 5:44). When negative thoughts or feelings come to your mind about the person who hurt you, offer them to God. Try something like, “God, if it was up to me, I would like to see this person fall under a bus; I would like to want to leave it in your hands though.”
- Trust in God. When we are hurt or in pain, we can lose our perspective and feel like the whole world is falling apart. It is important to realize that God is still God. God loves us more than we can imagine. No matter how bad an experience has been we can trust in God’s promise. “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16). God’s promise can be trusted.
“Giotto – Legend of St Francis – -15- – Sermon to the Birds” by Giotto
Preach the Gospel at all times… if necessary, use words.
St. Francis of Assisi
Next Saturday, October 4, is the feast of St. Francis. Francis is one of the most beloved saints in our church because of his simplicity and his love for all of creation. In celebration of this feast, we will be having a blessing of animals at 5:15pm at St. Rose on Saturday, October 4. Gather in front of the church for this blessing of animals.
Here is an excerpt from St. Francis famous Canticle of the Sun:
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
Praise be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon
and the stars, in heaven you formed them
clear and precious and beautiful.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Wind,
and through the air, cloudy and serene,
and every kind of weather through which
You give sustenance to Your creatures.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Water,
which is very useful and humble and precious and chaste.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you light the night and he is beautiful
and playful and robust and strong.
Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains us and governs us and who produces
varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
I hope many of you are able to watch this. From the trailer, it looks fascinating.
The Rule | PBS.
“Sassoferrato – Jungfrun i bön” by Giovanni Battista Salvi da Sassoferrato – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Recently, Bishop Ricken issues a Pastoral Reflection entitled, “Teach My People to Pray.” In this reflection he calls all parishes in the diocese to have a particular focus on prayer for the next two years as part of his six year plan on the New Evangelization. He reminds us that
The Christian life is a life rooted in prayer, the fruit of which is love. During these first two years, as we learn to pray and to deepen our prayer lives, I urge you to “come to Jesus” in prayer. This phrase is often taken out of context but when you reflect upon it, it is an invitation and a prayer in and of itself — it is an invitation to come to Jesus and to not be afraid to come to Him. Come and be a friend of Jesus. Come and learn to sit at his feet, to adore Him, to love Him, and to spend time with Him every day. Come and live out of that great fountain of God’s mercy that He is pouring upon the world by truly enjoying all of the spiritual riches that He has to give you through the life of the Church and through the gift of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday. Come throughout the week and make God your top priority in your daily life. Come and do not be afraid!
I am asking each of you to think about how our faith community can aid you in making Jesus your top priority. How can we, together, in the coming two years, grow in our life of prayer? Our Pastoral Councils will be looking at this question in the next few months. Please let me know your thoughts. How can we become a “school of prayer” in the Holy Spirit?
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood
“We were members of St. Mary Parish [in Bear Creek] and … attended St. Mary School. We called it ‘The Sisters’ School.’ I joined the Sisters in 1939 — with never a regret.” – Sr. Mary Ellen Lowney
“[I]f two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father” (Mt. 18:19).
This Sunday at the 10:30am liturgy at St. Mary’s we welcome Sr. Mary Ellen Lowney who is celebrating her 75th Jubilee. Sr. Mary Ellen attended St. Mary’s school as a child and joined the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in 1939. Throughout her 75 years of ministry as a religious sister, she has served as a teacher and leader of her order, especially during the critical years as the church implemented the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. She is a witness to us of a radical faith in God’s love and trust in his providence.
Today’s gospel reminds us that we are a community of prayer. Over the years, Sr. Mary Ellen’s life and ministry has been enriched by prayer. “How could I not be enriched with participation in daily Mass, community prayer morning and evening, and ample time for personal prayer?” she says. In many ways we celebrate this gift of fidelity and prayer. May God continue to raise up strong women of faith to lead and guide the church; women rooted in prayer and committed to lifelong service. Thank you, Sr. Mary Ellen for your ongoing witness. May God continue to bless you abundantly!
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood