“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”― Nelson Mandela: (1918 – 2013: was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary & politician. Mandela served 27 years in prison.)
Gospel Text: (MT 6:7-15)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“In praying, do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Do not be like them.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
“This is how you are to pray:
‘Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,
thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us;
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’
“If you forgive others their transgressions,
your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”
How do we respond to hurts and offenses?
Jesus continues by teaching us whom to love. Instead of loving only those whom we like or who love us Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. This is surely good psychology as praying for those who hurt us frees us and gives us peace. By following his advice we will become sons of our Father in heaven, which means if we do not act like this we will not be true sons or daughters of our heavenly Father. It reminds us of Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But there is a second reason why Jesus says we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors; just as the sun shines on everyone and the rains falls on everyone God does not limit his love only to those who are good, so it is not up to us to decide who deserves our love and who doesn’t. God doesn’t do that so why should we.
Is there anything that can help us to forgive those who have hurt us? These are three suggestions that I offer to people from time to time:
· Forgiveness is a decision not an emotion. Hopefully our emotions will follow our decision to forgive but firstly we must decide to forgive.
· Forgiveness does not mean blotting out painful memories but it means not acting out of them.
· When people have difficulty forgiving a hurt I sometimes say to people to repeat to themselves, “I will not allow that person to control my life. I take control of my life back from that person. From now on I will control my life”.
When Mother Teresa accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo in 1979, part of her acceptance speech went like this:
“It is not enough for us to say: ‘I love God, but I do not love my neighbor.’ Saint John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don’t love your neighbor. (1 John 4:20) How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt.”
How can we love like this? We say that to err is human and to forgive is divine. It is a grace to forgive and when the hurt is great we may need to pray a great deal for the grace to forgive. Mother Teresa wrote:
“To be able to love one another, we must pray much, for prayer gives a clean heart and a clean heart can see God in our neighbor. If now we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten how to see God in one another.”
Something to consider in these troubled days we live in……….