Forgiveness

 

 

 

 

Friends,

today’s readings are all about forgiveness.  Here are some thoughts:

Henri Nouwen – Forgiveness is an act of liberation

To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, “I no longer hold your offense against you” But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the “offended one.” As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God.

Immaculee

Immaculee acknowledges that since the war ended, feelings of anger and hatred for the killers sometimes tempt her at weak moments. “But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester,” she writes. “I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”

At one point, just as the violence in Rwanda had been quelled and talk of UN-led tribunals had begun, Immaculee returned to Kibuye. There, she visited a prison to meet the leader of the gang who killed her mother and her bother, Damascene. His name is Felicien.

Before the genocide, he had been a successful Hutu businessman known for his expensive suits and impeccable manners. Immaculee recalled in her talk how she used to play with his children. It was Felicien’s voice that she heard calling her name when the killers searched the pastor’s home. Now, here was Felicien, sobbing, his clothes hanging like rags from his emaciated body.

Shamed, he could barely make eye contact with Immaculee. “I wept at the sight of his suffering,” Immaculee said. “He was now the victim of his victims, destined to live in torment and regret.” She reached out and touched his hands and said: “I forgive you.” His Tutsi jailer was furious at this, hoping that she would spit on the man. “Why did you forgive him?” he demanded. “Forgiveness is all I have to offer,” Immaculee responded.

 

Here is a wonderful prayer about forgiveness that first appeared under the title of the Peace Prayer in France in 1912 in a small spiritual magazine called La Clochette (The Little Bell). It was published in Paris by a Catholic association known as La Ligue de la Sainte-Messe (The Holy Mass League),

Lord make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred let me sow love Where there is injury, pardon Where there is doubt, faith Where there is despair, hope Where there is darkness, light And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console to be understood as to understand To be loved as to love For it is in giving that we receive it is in pardoning that we are pardoned And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life Amen

Sound familiar?

Peace.

Father Ken

 

 

 

 

 

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Correction

Dear Friends,

It is difficult to accept correction.  Here are two “rules” which might help:

 

Rule Number One: Presume Good Will

While personalities, mannerisms, and poor circumstances might create a harshness when we are being corrected either by a superior or a co-worker, we must “presume good will.”

Even if the person does not fully understand the complexity of the situation,  we can be humbled for two reasons:  First, their observations often are either partially correct or right on the money, giving us something to address; and secondly, it reminded us that God speaks through people, not just in our thoughts! And our thoughts of ourselves are not always correct!

Saint Augustine notes that correction is one of the benefits of genuine friendship.  If I were engaging in behavior that is liable to be damaging, I would hope that a friend would help me see the error of my ways.  True friends will spot a danger and let us know.

Rule Number Two: Growth only happens in vulnerability.

St. Aelred writes:  “The human heart is like a vessel that may be either full of honey or poison.”  He goes on to explain how correction will open that vessel, and then the person will know if his heart if filled with fraternal love or vice. When we bristle at correction, its filled with poisonous vice; when we accept with humility, its filled with fraternal love.

It is important to “open our lid.” If we find poison or vinegar, then we must follow the advice of St. Therese who reminds us we should not be afraid of our weaknesses:

MY DEAREST SISTER, – Do not let your weakness make you unhappy. When, in the morning, we feel no courage or strength for the practice of virtue, it is really a grace: it is the time to “lay the axe to the root of the tree,”1 relying upon Jesus alone. If we fall, an act of love will set all right, and Jesus smiles. He helps us without seeming to do so; and the tears which sinners cause Him to shed are wiped away by our poor weak love. Love can do all things. The most impossible tasks seem to it easy and sweet. You know well that Our Lord does not look so much at the greatness of our actions, nor even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them. What, then, have we to fear?

You wish to become a Saint, be not afraid of correction. If in the midst of fraternal, or sororal correction, you find your vessel full of vinegar or poison, this is God’s will.  For wouldn’t you rather find out what is inside now, embarrassing before your family and friends, then before Jesus at his judgement seat?  Now you can make changes, then it will be too late.

Presume good will, and growth only happens in vulnerability. Correction. Hard, but necessary, for even Jesus and the Apostles were corrected.  Jesus question by his mother when lost at the Temple; and the apostles, well many times!

Correction is God’s means of helping us grow in wisdom and stature.

Peace,

Father Ken

 

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To be duped!

Dear Friends,

“Duped!” That’s a word you don’t hear very often, but for me, it is associated with the prophet Jeremiah.

You duped me, O LORD, and I let myself be duped;
you were too strong for me, and you triumphed.

These lines are found in his prophetic book, (Jeremiah 20:7).  Oftentimes I feel “duped” too! It means to be deceived or tricked. Does God really deceive us or trick us into doing something?  Of course not, but sometimes it feels like it.

St. Thomas Aquinas who wrote a great deal about our free will said:

Free-will is the cause of its own movement, because by his free-will man moves himself to act

If you look at Jeremiah’s words, he readily accepts this notion that one has free will too.  He said, “YOU duped me O Lord, AND I LET MYSELF BE DUPED!”  In other words Jeremiah is saying, “Yeah, I’m no dummy.  I knew what you were really asking and I accepted it!”

In our lives and in making our daily decisions, we never know the exact outcome of these decisions, but we choose to trust.  This is what Jeremiah did, and we must do.

I am reminded, and will show my age, by a song by John Denver.  It lyrics reminds us that if we knew all the outcomes of that first step, we would never take a step.

 If our lives could lie before us like a straight and narrow highway
So that we could see forever, long before we took the ride,
We would never look to heaven, make a wish, or climb a mountain,
‘Cause we’d always know the answer what’s on the other side.

But life ain’t no easy freeway, just some gravel on the ground.
You pay for every mile you go, to spread some dust around.
Though we all have destinations, and the dust will settle down;
This life ain’t no easy freeway, just some gravel on the ground.
So let’s walk the road together.
Who knows what we’ll find tomorrow;
Maybe good times, maybe sorrow will be waitin’ ’round the bend.
Given time, two hearts discover what they’re feelin’ for each other;
At the best we’ll end up lovers, at the least we’ll make a friend.

I could sing the song, “What a friend we have in Jesus!,” but will only leave you with the memory of the tune which might linger in your head all day!

Peace.

Father Ken

 

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Resentments

Dear Friends,

Jesus said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

What are we talking about here? Sin?  Yes, but I think, a particular sin.  One that each one of us must deal with, or it will deal with us.  It is the sin of resentment.  It unlike I suspect any sin, binds us.

  • “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”
  • “Our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment.” Dale Carnegie
  • “Get angry, get furious, but never crumble to resentment.”

 

What is Resentment? And what is wrong with it? Resentment is a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury.

Helps:

  1. Describe resentments in writing.  Resentments seem huge and powerful when they’re in your head. But once they’re down on paper they no longer seem so huge or powerful. In fact, on paper a lot of resentments look downright stupid.
  2. Look at your role in the resentment. Did I do anything to cause this situation or make it worse? If we’re honest, the answer will often be yes.
  3. Be willing to live without resentment. People can get a perverse satisfaction in feeding their resentments.
  4. Pray for the person you resent. If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for that person or the thing that you resent, you will be free.

From the Trappist Author, Michael Casey:

The common life is a vigorous training ground for the life of charity. True community is built upon selflessness. Mortification is not the purpose of community life, but it is the means by which each person contributes to the mutuality of the life that makes it a place where grace and peace can flourish. The following observation may be helpful:

I cannot listen if I do not practice restraint of speech. • I cannot serve if I always seek to be served. • I cannot be attentive to others if I cannot forget myself. • I cannot truly serve Christ until I serve all. • I cannot be truly sorry for my sins until I learn to apologize to others. • I cannot truly love God until I also love my neighbor.

Finally from the Big Book of AA…..

And acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation—some fact of my life —unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.

We have been given the ability, the will-power to forgive, to let go: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Father Ken

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Silence

Silence and our prayer life……………..Cassian lived from about 360 to 435 AD. He was born in modern-day Romania, spent much of his young adult life among the desert dwellers of Egypt and Palestine, before travelling to Gaul (France) to establish what were probably the first Christian monasteries in Europe.

St. Benedict recommended Cassian’s writings to his monks, and is very popular today due to the influence of monastic wisdom to the everyday Christian.

When Cassian and his companion Germanus traveled to Palestine as young men, he recorded his adventures in two collections of writings, The Conferences and The Institutes.

For those interested in contemplation and the spirituality of silence, the 9th and 10th conferences recount the teachings of the desert dwellers in regard to the practice of prayer.

Cassian was mentored by Evagrius Ponticus, a monastic theologian of the 4th century who taught interior silence as the heart of prayer.  Cassian saw the use of a sacred phrase as a “prayer word” for focusing one’s attention while learning to pray through the splendor of the silence that exists “between the words” of our thinking minds.

Cassian very specifically promoted a specific Bible verse as the best short prayer to memorize and repeat:

“God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me.”

It comes from the Psalms (70:1), and Cassian calls it a “model” for teaching the art of prayer, much like children are given toy blocks with letters on them, to model the alphabet for them to learn.

Cassian instructs his readers to keep this model “constantly” within their spiritual sight, turning it “over and over” in their spirit, so that “as you use it and meditate upon it, you lift yourself upward to the most sublime sights.”

Father Ken

 

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