March 3: Forgiveness: the message that Jesus came to bring
Fr. Steve urges us to forgive those who have harmed us, whether it be a relative, a friend or a coworker, the Lord demands that we forgive if we want to enter paradise.
Fr. Steve quotes from the book Fire Of Mercy: Heart of the Word, Vol. 1
, by Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis:
Our habit of judging others really entrenches us in the impossibility of our receiving God’s, or anyone else’s, forgiveness—not indeed because God does not give it, but because we have ceased little by little to think of ourselves as at all needing forgiveness. We cannot habitually define ourselves as judges and at the same time really believe in our deeper identity as sinners needing pardon. We may use the prescribed formulas of contrition, but our inward habit keeps us from really believing what we mouth. In this case, God will have to judge us adversely, because we have put ourselves beyond his sphere of forgiveness. By refusing to judge others, I am training myself in the divine art of forgiveness. Refusal to judge does not leave a vacuum, because where my neighbor is involved I am never indifferent: either I judge or I forgive, which means that either I exclude or I love. Can there be a greater bliss on earth than to go about habitually with forgiveness in our heart and mouth—an attitude flowing, not from some recipe to insure my own peace of mind, but from the same vision that the Father in heaven has of his creation?
THE DARKNESS of compulsive judgmentalism distorts all my perceptions and poisons my heart like a noxious gas. An eye blocked by a beam is so vitiated at the very source of vision that the optic nerve, conserving only a memory of seeing, imagines it sees beams everywhere, whereas the only real beam is that lodged in its own socket. We must ceaselessly struggle against this tendency to assume that our unschooled perception is the objective norm of judgment, that only we possess clear, unhampered sight. This malady can be cured only by putting on the mind of Christ, by seeing my brother through the eyes of Christ, which radiate love and forgiveness: τότε διαβέψεις (v. 5)—“ only then will you see clearly.” This perfective form of the verb “to see” marks the state of true vision that is in contrast to the thwarted vision of verse 3. I have this God-given urge to interlock with others in relationships, to launch out into the world and in some way contribute to its welfare. But I must not move too fast, since I first have to look at myself. Who am I, this person pretending to go out and heal others? Have I realized how, in the present passage, Jesus has imperceptibly moved from the native human urge to judge to the equally native need on our part to interject ourselves into others’ lives in order to help them? “Let me remove the splinter from your eye.” We do not only judge; we move in. We do so as superior to inferior, out of a pleasurable sense of condescendence. We must serve one another, however, as fellow patients afflicted with the same malady—the wounded helping the wounded. The essence of Christian charity consists not so much in the material accomplishment of a heroic deed as in the degree of spiritual communion in the crucified Lord achieved by both the doer and the recipient of the deed. The greatest deed of Christian charity-is forgiveness, and if I must live a life of forgiving others, as Christ teaches, this is not on account of my goodness of heart but out of my own humble consciousness of being continually forgiven by God. Far from judging my brother, I will give thanks that he is there to receive from me the pardon I have received from God. God’s forgiveness is uncontainable. Forgiveness is the most beautiful mode of God’s love for man and of our love for one another.
Fr. Steve urges us, for our own sake, for our own peace and freedom, to examine our conscience and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal whom we need to forgive. We have a choice before us. Let us free ourselves from the burden of resentment and begin to life the life that God has called us to, made us for and desires for us.