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Forgiving Others - Family Reflection Video

Forgiving Others - Family Reflection Video

Love thy Neighbor  |  Healing the family

Today's Mass reading in the Gospel of Matthew gets personal fairly quickly. "If you bring your gift to the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there, go and reconcile with your brother, and then come and offer your gift."


Reflecting on the Gospel, I can see myself sitting and listening among the disciples, thinking I do well in keeping the commandments. The law seems straightforward, and I'm confident I will meet the challenge of abiding by it. Knowing that I have settled into a comfort zone, I imagine Jesus looking at me and saying, "No, Not so fast." I can hear him telling me that it is not enough to merely adhere to the letter of the law; interpreting the commandments like a checklist is not going to cut it—there is more to it than that.  


What is Heaven


There is a story prevalent among the Zen Buddhists about a Samurai - a military tribe in Japan. A quarrelsome Samurai demanded a Zen master to teach him the concept of heaven and hell. The Zen master replied with scorn, "You are nothing but a ruffian, and I can't waste my time on the likes of you."  The disgraced Samurai got into a rage, pulled his sword from its sheath, and screamed at the Zen master, "For your arrogance, I could chop you into pieces." The master calmly replied, "Son, that is hell." Startled at the truth in what the master pointed out about the anger that had overtaken him, the Samurai cooled down and put the sword back into its sheath and thanked the master for the insight, and begged for forgiveness. "And that," said the master, 'is heaven." 


Reconciliation vs Forgiveness


Each of us knows firsthand the penetrating power of words. With them, one may edify or destroy, enhance or tarnish, heal or wound. There is no doubt that those we love most are also the ones most capable of hurting us deeply, and vice versa. What dagger could penetrate deeper than an unkind word from a loved one?  

It is important to note the differences between forgiveness and reconciliation. Reconciliation is mutual. Both parties admit their wrongdoings, each repents and asks for forgiveness, and both forgive. Following that, both parties sincerely work toward repairing the relationship and rebuilding damaged trust.  


Forgiveness is Divine

It is, however, possible to forgive unilaterally. It allows me to let go of revenge, hatred, and the desire to "get even"; it alleviates my need to see that person suffer as I did. It releases their influence over my emotions, sleep, appetite, and life. I regain my power, free my heart, and let the Spirit flow through me. Depending on how grievous the hurt is, I need to repeat the process and reaffirm the forgiveness over and over again. Even after forgiving, something may happen that brings old hurts back up. 

It's tough work! But Jesus says not to come to the altar unless I do it. Let's work harder today on forgiving our brothers and sisters. If there is someone you need to forgive? Do you have a grudge or hurt that holds your heart bound? Bring all that to this altar with me. Ask for the ability to forgive with grace and strength, and do it now. Remember the Samurai and the Zen master—to forgive is heaven. As Alexander Pope once said, "To err is human, and to forgive is divine." 

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About Father Boby John, C.S.C.

Father Boby John, C.S.C., ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2008, worked as a pastor and as an educator with tribal populations in Northeast India for thirteen years. Originally from Kerala, India, Father Boby grew up with three siblings. He is a dedicated and detailed educationist with experience in educational leadership. He is currently working as an executive assistant at the world headquarters of Holy Cross Family Ministries, North Easton, Massachusetts.