“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive?” Forgiveness is difficult for us because true forgiveness, the kind we have received through Jesus, is from the heart; it is based on love. It requires us to give up the things we so often are not ready to give up or let go of: hurt, pain, suffering, anger, revenge, pride, humiliation. But if we are honest with ourselves, we know that these things are not good for us. They are like a poison that slowly brings confusion to our minds and darkness to our hearts. A poison that causes us to think and act as humans do; at times selfish and boastful, unkind and revengeful; and not as God does who is, “kind and merciful, slow to anger, and rich in compassion.” Unforgiveness is a venomous poison that shuts down our ability to love, to be compassionate, to be charitable. It imprisons and hardens our hearts; bringing about separation, isolation and division which are harmful to us and those we care for. They destroy our relationships, affect our spiritual well-being, deprive us of God’s love. Unforgiviness is detrimental to our bodies, our minds, our hearts, our souls, our families, our homes, our school, our workplace, our world. So I share with you the antidote I was given to help me to forgive from the heart and to once again love and be loved by God. So let us begin a spiritual exercise on forgiveness. Before we begin, place yourself in a quiet place, silence the mind, open your heart. Say a prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to guide you and to bring to light any unforgiveness in your heart. The first step is to ask for forgiveness in prayer from anyone you might have offended, caused any hurt, cursed at or embarrassed. When you are ready, proceed to the next step. In prayer, forgive anyone who might have sinned against you; anyone who hurt you, embarrassed you, stole from you, cursed you, lied to you, gossiped about you, made fun of you, mocked you, used you, pretended to like you, used your stuff without permission. When you are ready, proceed to the final step which is the most difficult. Look in a mirror, gaze into your eyes and forgive yourself from the heart. I pray this spiritual exercise on forgiveness will help you as it has helped me to be free of the poison of unforgiveness and filled with the Spirit of God’s love. God’s peace and blessings always, Fr. Ivan
Reflections from the Heart
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” Are you perfect? Are you without faults? We tend to think of perfection in terms of never making a mistake. We see ourselves as flawless or even faultless. However, perfection from God’s perspective means being holy as God is holy. It means thinking as God thinks, seeing as God sees, listening as God listens, and loving as God loves – unconditionally, patiently, sacrificially, with understanding and always for the other. Perfection means that we constantly strive to hold onto and even retain the gift of being fully restored in the image and likeness of our Creator and perfectly living in the ways of Christ. Shifting the blame towards another does not make us error free or perfect. It just means that we managed to draw the attention from ourselves to another’s faults. So are you perfect? Are you without faults? I think about our Lord in the Garden of Eden and the conversation he had with Adam regarding his nakedness. God knew that they had already eaten from the tree they were asked not to; they already sinned, they disobeyed God’s command. When God tells Adam he has eaten of the fruit that he was not to partake from Adam responds by saying it was not his fault but God’s fault since he was the one who put “that women” here. How easy it is for us to steer the blame in another direction or to another person in order to keep our own faults hidden. Eve also deflected the fault in another direction by saying, “the serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it.” Looking at our own faults is not easy. It is easier for us to deflect the attention somewhere else or to someone else. Jesus reminds us that if someone sins against us then we should pull that person to the side quietly and privately and then share the fault that caused us hurt, distress, despair, frustration, confusion. It would be good to commend to our heart and mind that fraternal correction requires charity on both sides. We should consider that how a message is received can affect how we respond. As we know, it is not always what we say but how we say it that can make all the difference. So if someone sins against you, privately tell them their fault. But remember that a gentle correction most likely will elicit a favorable response.
“But who do you say that I am?” Imagine for a moment that you and Jesus are having a quiet conversation. And in the conversation you share the different aspects of your life, your faith journey, the things that have challenged you the most and the things you are most grateful for. And in the conversation Jesus catches you off guard and says, I’m curious what do you know about me? What have you heard about me? What have people told you about me? Who do people say that I Am? And you respond by saying some say you are the Son of God, some say you were born of the Virgin Mary, still some say that you died on a cross and rose on the third day. Then Jesus looks you right in the eye, he pierces your heart with his gaze and touches that place in your soul that only God can reach; where you realize you are insignificant, naked, a sinner in need of redemption; the place every secret is revealed. Then holding your life in the palm of his hand he looks intently into your eyes and keeping his gaze on your heart he says to you personally and intimately “but who do you say that I am?” This question rocks your world. There is no place to run, no where to hide, no person to call, no book to read, no site to search; there is just you and the Truth. A question so intimate, so personal, so relational requires first-hand knowledge and experience of who Jesus is, has been and will continue to be personally to you. May you say with gratitude, thank you Jesus for helping me to realize that you are my rock, my foundation, the core of my being, the depth of my soul, the heart within my heart. Thank you for being my life, my voice, my shepherd, my salvation, the cause of my joy, the source of my inspiration, the bread that nourishes me, the drink that satisfies me, the fire that burns inside of me. Thank you for being my Lord and my God. I live because you died. I am free because you died for me. I breathe because you live inside of me. Without you there can be no me. With you all things are possible. You are the Beloved Son of God who loves me, saved me, forgave me, healed me and set me free. Who you are is all that I need.
“Let it be done for you as you wish.” I recall the days of my youth and being told and conditioned to believe and consider a better life – a life that would be easier, wealthier – all about me. I would often hear my friends speak of one day owning a big house, having a fancy job and getting a fast car. Their hopes and dreams became what I would wish for the most. As children, we often played the game: “what if you had three wishes; what would you wish for?” My response was always the same. I would wish for riches and power and for three more wishes so I could have more riches and more power and more wishes. As I matured in my spirituality, I came to realize that these are the means, the ways, the methods, that the Devil distracts us, separates us and lures us away from the beautiful presence and face of God. That getting us to want more stuff, to desire more things, to seek greater status is the way that Satan draws our attention away from the sacred gaze that Christ has on our hearts and that our eyes should have on his Holy Cross and his Sacred Heart. What if you could really wish upon a star; what would you ask for? Would it bring you true happiness? The kind that satisfies your deep longing for true joy; the kind that never fades away. Or would you wish you had three more wishes? What if you find yourself the victor of a wishbone tug of war; what would you wish for? Would you ask for a long life, a better family, that awesome paying job? Would that truly make you happy; would you thank God that your wish came true? What about your yearly wish when you close your eyes and blow out candles; do you wish for something that will bring you closer to Christ; would he raise his voice in joyfulness and say, “O blessed child of my Father – great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Jesus said, “whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.” May your wish draw you closer to Christ, help you to bear good and holy fruit and give endless glory to God our Father. May you live happily ever after.