Monday, February 18, 2019

Feb. 24, 2019 - Finding Forgiveness

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year C

Reading I: 
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9,
12-13, 22-23

Psalm: 103

Reading II: 
1 Corinthians

Luke 6:27-38

“Do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
Often referred to as the Golden Rule, this is both a simple and challenging motto. Jesus asks us to be kind to our enemies, not just those who love us.

This does not mean that we condone what our enemies have said or done. It does not mean foregoing justice. It simply means letting go of the hatred that poisons one's soul and can even harm one’s physical health. Pope John Paul II made a point to go to prison to forgive his assailant. That had a positive effect on both. However, the Holy Father did not request that his enemy be released from prison.

As humans, we tend to judge other’s motives even though we have no ability to see within the soul of others. This was brought home to me when I was studying the “group process.” We gathered together at a mental hospital and waited for someone to speak. It happened to be a young woman who had invited her mother to participate. The young woman resented her mother and her brother’s relationship and felt unloved. As the sharing evolved, her mother revealed that the father did not want the son from his birth. The mother tried to make up for the father’s rejection by giving special attention to the son. It did not mean that she loved her daughter any less. By the end of the session, mother and daughter were crying in each other’s arms. What a difference knowing the real motivation of another can make!

A striking example of forgiveness and its redeeming effects is told in the biography of St. Maria Goretti. This young Italian girl was born into a farming family on October 16, 1890.  Her father died of Malaria when she was nine. Because they were so poor, the family had to share a house with the Serenelli family. Maria took over the household duties and care for her younger sister while the rest of the family was working in the fields.

The twenty-year-old Alessandro Serenelli made frequent sexual advances to Maria which she refused, saying it would be sinful. Finally, when she was alone one day and continued to refuse his advances, Alessandro stabbed her 14 times. When the family returned from the fields, they found her in a pool of blood and rushed her to the hospital. The wounds were too bad for the doctors to save Maria. However, before she died, Maria expressed her forgiveness of Alessandro and stated that she wanted him to be with her in heaven.

During his 27 years in prison, Alessandro repented and on his release, went to Maria’s mother to ask her forgiveness. Her response was that if her daughter could forgive him, she could also. Alessandro turned his life around and prayed to Maria each day. Along with her mother, Alessandro attended Maria’s canonization in 1950. Eventually, he became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. After living in a monastery working as a receptionist and gardener, he died peacefully in 1970.

Jesus was emphasizing that Christianity requires all-inclusive love.  Letting go of resentment, grudges, and revenge can free up a person’s spirit and can also enable much good to result.

 Reflection Question:  Can any of my relationships be restored or strengthened by letting go of resentment or through honest dialogue?  (If the other person is not open, at least we can pray for the  person and let go of hard feelings on our part.)

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...
Encontrar el Perdón

“Haz a los demás como te gustaría que te hicieran a ti”. A menudo referida como la Regla de Oro, este es un lema simple y desafiante. Jesús nos pide que seamos amables con nuestros enemigos, no solo con los que nos aman.

Esto no significa que condonemos lo que nuestros enemigos han dicho o hecho. No significa renunciar a la justicia. Simplemente significa dejar de lado el odio que envenena el alma y puede incluso dañar la salud física. El Papa Juan Pablo II se propuso ir a prisión para perdonar a su agresor. Eso tuvo un efecto positivo en ambos. Sin embargo, el Santo Padre no solicitó que su enemigo fuera liberado de la prisión.

Como seres humanos, tendemos a juzgar los motivos de los demás, aunque no tenemos la capacidad de ver dentro del alma de los demás. Esto me lo trajeron a casa cuando estaba estudiando el “proceso grupal”. Nos reunimos en un hospital psiquiátrico y esperamos que alguien hablara. Resultó ser una mujer joven que había invitado a su madre a participar. La joven estaba resentida con la relación de su madre y su hermano y se sentía no amada. A medida que evolucionaba el compartir, su madre reveló que el padre no quería que el hijo naciera. La madre trató de compensar el rechazo del padre prestando especial atención al hijo. No significaba que amara menos a su hija. Al final de la sesión, madre e hija lloraban en los brazos del otro. ¡Qué diferencia puede hacer saber la motivación real
de otro!

Un ejemplo sorprendente de perdón y sus efectos redentores se cuenta en la biografía de Santa María Goretti. Esta joven italiana nació en una familia de agricultores el 16 de octubre de 1890. Su padre murió de malaria cuando tenía nueve años. Debido a que eran tan pobres, la familia tuvo que compartir una casa con la familia Serenelli. María se hizo cargo de las tareas domésticas y de cuidar a su hermana menor mientras el resto de la familia trabajaba en los campos.

Alessandro Serenelli, de 20 años, hizo frecuentes avances sexuales a María, que ella rechazó, diciendo que sería un pecado. Finalmente, cuando ella estuvo sola un día y continuó rechazando sus avances, Alessandro la apuñaló 14 veces. Cuando la familia regresó de los campos, la encontraron en un charco de sangre y la llevaron al hospital. Las heridas eran demasiado malas para que los médicos salvaran a María. Sin embargo, antes de morir, María expresó su perdón a Alessandro y declaró que quería que él estuviera con ella en el cielo.

Durante los 27 años que estuvo en prisión, Alessandro se arrepintió y, luego de su liberación, acudió a la madre de María para pedirle perdón. Su respuesta fue que si su hija podía perdonarlo, ella también podría. Alessandro cambió su vida y oró a María cada día. Junto con su madre, Alessandro asistió a la canonización de María en 1950. Finalmente, se convirtió en hermano laico de la Orden de los Frailes Menores Capuchinos. Después de vivir en un monasterio trabajando como recepcionista y jardinero, murió en paz en 1970.

Jesús estaba enfatizando que el cristianismo requiere amor todo incluido. Dejar ir el resentimiento, los rencores y la venganza puede liberar el espíritu de una persona y también puede permitir mucho bien.

 Pregunta de reflexión:   ¿Se puede restaurar o fortalecer cualquiera de mis relaciones dejando ir el resentimiento o mediante un diálogo honesto?  (Si la otra persona no está abierta, al menos podemos orar por la persona y dejar de lado los sentimientos difíciles de nuestra parte).

1 comment:

  1. Having been educated in Catholic grade school and Catholic high school, the message of forgiveness ought to be part of my DNA. However, my ego occasionally wins out when my need to be right outweighs my desire to be happy and I choose hold onto my pain and grudge. Thankfully, these moments don’t last long; a quick glance upon the crucifix reminds me of Jesus’ total forgiveness.
    I forgive because I am forgiven by God, who loves me without reserve. Recalling instances where I extended forgiveness, I recognize that they were opportunities to show love. When I love others in their brokenness, I heal my own wounds. As a nation, we have witnessed powerful instances of radical forgiveness, such as the compassion showed by the Amish community to the family of the man who massacred their children in their schoolhouse. I remember that event so clearly and I am humbled by their Christ-like behavior. When I ask myself if I could show mercy in such an extreme tragedy, my “yes” is feeble and my answer, more truthfully, is “I hope I would be able to forgive so readily.”
    I had first-hand experience in seeing the damaging effects of embodying anger, bitterness and hate in the life of a woman named Bertha who was a resident in the long-term care facility where I worked when I was in my twenties. I loved Bertha and she came to enjoy being with me and to trust me enough to share her horrifying story of how she witnessed her entire family swept away to the ovens in Auschwitz. She managed to hang onto life in spite of being brutally treated. A mere wisp of a woman, Bertha, could relate every detail of torture, starvation and sickness in the death camp. She shook with terror every time she thought of it, and Bertha replayed the horrors each and every day. She expressed how she would never forgive the Nazis for what they did to her and her family. However, her tears left me thinking that deep down, Bertha longed to release the hurt and pain and embrace peace. She was exhausted from carrying the burden of unforgiveness for decades. By clinging to the hurt and pain, Bertha continued to live in the hell she desperately wanted to escape. Release from the concentration camp did not result in freedom for Bertha because unforgiveness kept her a victim, cut off from living and connecting with others.
    Eva Kor survived horrific daily medical experimentations at the hands of Dr. Josef Mengele, a notorious Nazi war criminal who sent thousands of people, including Eva’s family members, to the Auschwitz gas chambers. Eva found the power to forgive. After half a century of wanting all Nazis to be hanged and given the punishment they deserve, Eva had, what she terms, “an epiphany,” and found a way to heal her emotional wounds through forgiveness. She relates that she freed herself by forgiving Mengele. She went on to found the CANDLES Holocaust Museum in Indiana. She also participates in The Forgiveness Project, a U.K.-based nonprofit that explores forgiveness, reconciliation and conflict resolution. Eva Kor chose healing, life, and connection.
    Henri Nouwen writes: “Forgiving does not mean forgetting. When we forgive a person, the memory of the wound might stay with us for a long time, even throughout our lives. Sometimes we carry the memory in our bodies as a visible sign. But forgiveness changes the way we remember. It converts the curse into a blessing. We no longer have to experience ourselves as the victims of events we had no control over. Forgiveness allows us to claim our own power and not let these events destroy us; it enables them to become events that deepen the wisdom of our hearts. Forgiveness indeed heals memories.”
    "When we know that God loves us deeply…it becomes possible to expect no more of our fellow men and women than they are able to give, to forgive them generously when they have offended us, and always to respond to their hostility with love. By doing so we make visible a new way of being human and a new way of responding to our world problems.”