Sunday, February 19, 2012

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you

He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart. --St. Faustina

(Isaiah 43)
Thus says the LORD:
Remember not the events of the past,
the things of long ago consider not;
see, I am doing something new!
Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
In the desert I make a way,
in the wasteland, rivers.
The people I formed for myself,
that they might announce my praise.
Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob,
for you grew weary of me, O Israel.
You burdened me with your sins,
and wearied me with your crimes.
It is I, I, who wipe out,
for my own sake, your offenses;
your sins I remember no more.

When you hear the word “repentance”, what comes to mind? I immediately picture someone being sincerely sorry for committing a hurtful act and promising not to do it again.

I have found that too often Christians dwell on the past mistakes or sinful acts they have made. As a result, they feel discouraged or unworthy to live as Christ’s disciple. Today’s reading from Isaiah insightfully advises against this self-criticism when it says, “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” (Isaiah 43:18-19) It is important to realize that in every moment of every day, God lovingly gives us the opportunity to serve and grow in faith. In essence, we continually are able to grow closer to God. However, if we place all our attention on our failings, we are unable to see these opportunities to grow. Yes, we must recognize when we have done wrong, but we are called to use these moments to see how we can better become God’s disciples instead of falling in self-loathing.

However, I find myself compelled to ask, “How can I move on and grow from my failings?” I think the Gospel helps provide the answer by emphasizing that Christ has the power and love to forgive our sins. Christ does not want to punish or condemn us. Instead, he wants to bring us closer to him and share in his life. Therefore, he has given us the amazing grace of forgiveness. What a profound gift Christ’s forgiveness is? Christ knows that we will fall time after time, but he will pick us up just the same and compel us to live lives directed more towards him. Therefore, let us reflect today in thanksgiving for the gift of Christ’s forgiveness and look for ways to better see God in our lives.

The Church has taught throughout the centuries: "When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon" (Catechism, 1456). When we go to Confession, the Lord forgives all our sins even if we have accidentally forgotten to confess any of them or have not expressed them well. We are completely forgiven and truly free. We have reason to be full of joy. Let us "celebrate and rejoice" (Lk 15:32) because we who have been dead in sin have come back to life. Alleluia!

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