Forgiveness

God loves sinners

God loves sinners.

I think this is a lot easier to accept when the sinner in question isn’t myself. When I’m the sinner, I find it impossible to accept that God really loves me, and can’t help hiding from God and trying to earn my way back into His good graces. Which I also know I can’t do.

Basically, God has to batter me down with His tenderness, to accept His merciful love. It’s impossible for me, but not for Him. The most I can do is ask Him to do this.

When we sin, we are in a state of sin, and live by the logic of sin, which is entirely incapable of understanding God’s grace and mercy. We think God is like us, judging and measuring up and seeking to exploit his friends and crush his enemies. Like Adam and Eve, we hide from God, because love doesn’t make sense to us.

Somehow God breaks through. I am put in His presence, and His merciful love breaks me down. In fact, it crucifies me. The heart of stone is shattered, and I’m set free, made alive again.

But it’s not about becoming “righteous”… In fact, I think that when I’m no longer the sinner that’s being crucified by His merciful love, I’m back in the logic of sin, and will soon commit a sin that makes that clear. Christian holiness is God’s own life in an unworthy sinner, and once we’re “worthy”, we’ve kicked Him out.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. Amen

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How to forgive

Recently, I realised I hadn’t properly forgiven some people. I wanted to, but couldn’t figure out how. I thought things like, “I forgive them, but they did still…” I realised that I didn’t really know what forgiveness was.

So I looked to the cross to learn, and there I saw that forgiveness means letting yourself be hurt. Jesus didn’t have to endure the cross, but He did, accepting every blow and every lash, rather than fighting the sinners attacking Him. All our sins are against Him, and so in choosing to suffer our sins, He was directly and immediately forgiving us.

So to forgive, we must allow ourselves to be wounded. Those we must forgive will be the ones who have wounded us, and are wounding us.

I think I had been thinking of forgiveness as being a matter of letting go, but now I think of it as accepting. I can’t just drop my pain, physical or otherwise, but if I accept it, if I say yes to the pain, then I’m free, and the pain, and whoever inflicted it, is no longer an enemy I can’t escape.

It feels pretty great. Unforgiveness creeps up again sometimes, but then I remember to accept the pain, and I’m free again.

And I think that that liberty is a small foretaste of the resurrection.

God bless!

The prodigal son smells

After taking and squandering his inheritance early, his new homeland was struck with famine, and he ended up working with pigs. And in fact, he was treated worse than the pigs.

So, when he comes to his senses and returns to his father, he is very dirty and very smelly. When his father sees him in the distance, he sees first of all just a man covered in pigs muck. Then he recognises him as his son, and everything else becomes secondary.

He runs out to him, and doesn’t think twice about clasping him tight and tenderly kissing him, despite inevitably getting smelly, unclean pigs muck on himself. He takes on his sons filth, and embraces him in it. And his tears, borne of long sorrow and fresh joy, begin to cleanse the son.

And then he orders the best robe to be brought out and put on him. He is clothed in his father’s righteousness, dignity, and glory. He is his father’s son, and all the father has belongs to the son.

No doubt he will be washed first. To put on the father’s robe, he will first be stripped and washed. His shame will be removed, to make way for his glory, that is the glory of his father.

The transformation is striking, from penniless wanderer, reeking of pig, to honoured, celebrated, dignified son. He is a new creation.
God bless you!

We’re forgiven before we ask

‘Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate.’ [Luke 15:11-24]

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Did you notice, that the father actually ignores his son completely? He doesn’t hear a word he’s saying. He doesn’t even let him finish, but starts talking to his slaves.

The father forgives his son, when the son hasn’t even dared to ask forgiveness. And it couldn’t be any other way. We couldn’t ask forgiveness, if we were not already forgiven. We have no right to ask forgiveness, nothing to appeal to. Except that the Father loves us, and rushes out to embrace and forgive us. His grace always comes first.

An excellent prayer of repentance: Say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” And then feel the Father put his arms around you and kiss you, tears of joy running down His face.

God bless you

‘Ah! My brother, how the goodness of Jesus, His merciful love, are so little known!’

‘It must be that you don’y know me at all well, if you are afraid that a detailed account of your faults could lessen the tenderness I feel for your soul! O my brother, believe me that I shall not need to “put my hand over the mouth of Jesus.” He has forgotten your infidelities long ago. Only your desires for perfection remain to make His heart rejoice. I implore you, don’t drag yourself to His feet ever again. Follow that “first impulse which draws you into His arms.” That is where you belong and I have decided, now more so than from your other letters, that you are forbidden to go to heaven by any other road than the one your poor little sister travels.

‘I completely agree with you that “the heart of God is saddened more by the thousand little indelicacies of His friends than it is by the faults, even the grave ones, which people of the world commit.” But my dear little brother, it seems to me that it is only when his friends, ignoring their continual indelicacies, make a habit out of them and don’t ask forgiveness for them, that Jesus can utter those touching words which the Church puts on his lips in Holy Week: “These wounds you see in the palms of my hands are the ones I received in the house of those who loved me.” For those who love Him, and after each fault come to ask pardon by throwing themselves into His arms, Jesus trembles with joy. He says to His angels what the father of the prodigal son said to his servants: “Put his best robe on him and put a ring on his finger, and let us rejoice.” Ah! My brother, how the goodness of Jesus, His merciful love, are so little known! It is true that to enjoy these riches we must be humbled and recognise our nothingness, and that is what so many are not will to do. But my little brother, that is not the way you behave, so the way of simple love and confidence is just made to order for you.`

-From a letter from St. Therese of Lisieux to Maurice Belliere, a young seminarian [Taken from Maurice & Therese: The Story of a Love]

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God bless you!

A mountain of mercy

This Sunday at mass, I was thanking God that by His grace, I have been given life in Him, so that at that very moment, I was blessed to be communing with Him, loving and being loved, genuinely touching my God. I was thanking God for every sin that by His grace I haven’t committed, and I realised I ought to thank Him for every sin I’ve ever committed being forgiven. I am with God at this moment, because every single sin, throughout my entire life, has been forgiven.

I saw that all the sins of my life would amass to a great mountain, made of all the filth, waste, and excrement of my soul. But where that mountain should have been, there was instead an even greater mountain of God’s mercy, and in my mind’s eye it was gold and precious.

I can’t just thank God for His recent mercy and forgiveness, because if He didn’t forgive my oldest sins, I’d be just as cut off as for my newest. This one moment with God, is thanks to a whole life of forgiveness.

God bless you.

Thank you Lord! 

The Fear of Repenting

That terrible fear. When you know you have done something awful. And you know you must repent; that it’s the only way out. But you’re scared to. You consider if you could do it later… Or maybe never. Perhaps you could just live with what you’ve done…

Why is repentance so terrifying? Because it involves two terrifying things: judgment, and death. It involves judgment, because it requires revealing ourselves, with all our injustices, and acknowledging God as the just judge. He is the one with the right to judge all transgressions against Him.

It involves death, because it is our lives that we place before Him, and whatever He might do, we are acknowledging our life as being His to deal with, however He chooses. We are giving up our lives.

Why? For Jesus’ sake. We repent, laying our lives at Jesus’ feet, for love of him. Why do we love Jesus? Because he is merciful, because he is loving, and he has taught us love. We go like St. Mary Magdalene to cry on Jesus’ feet [Lk 7:36-50], because we are unworthy, but we love him, and hope that he will show us love too.

The most remarkable thing about our fear of repenting, is that afterwards it seems so absurd. To be so afraid, of what has brought such great liberty! But that is simply how death looks from the perspective of the resurrected. To repent is no less than to lay down our whole lives before Jesus and with Jesus, and so be raised to true life in him.

We must always remember what Pope Francis says:

“The Lord never tires of forgiving, it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.”

God bless you

Lord it is in giving that we receive

Lord it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-St. Francis of Assisi

Lord it is in giving that we receive.
With God, to give to Him, is to be ready to receive Him in what you have given. What else could please Him? What does God desire but to give?
True giving is always to God, since God will use all things best, and therefore it is always the greatest gift. Therefore true giving is always true receiving. When we give ourselves to others, we offer them space within us, for them.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
To pardon, truly, is to be pardoned. Pardon cannot be received without being given on, and God always offers us His pardon. To relinquish our grasp on the sins of others, into the hands of God’s grace, is to allow God into our sins also. All sin is one, and we cannot hold onto the sins of others while releasing our own; they are thoroughly tied together.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
True life, as revealed in Jesus Christ, is a gift, and the greatest gift is martyrdom; to give absolutely, without recompense.
The resurrection of the dead does not undo or repay the gift of the martyr’s life, but makes the gift lasting. This is the treasure in heaven for every good work: that our gifts shall endure forever in God, in whom all good works are done.

St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us!

God bless you!