As Catholic men, we have all experienced God’s forgiveness, through personal repentance and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Yet, when it comes to forgiveness, how easy it is for us as men to say, “I want mercy for myself (God please forgive me), but I want justice for them (they must be punished for what they did).” Or perhaps we will say (or think), “I can’t forgive that person until he says he’s sorry.” However, it doesn’t work that way because this is not the Gospel. Jesus’ disposition was to forgive all those who betrayed him, rejected him, and beat him. “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” In fact, unforgiveness is contrary to the message of the Gospel and Jesus’ words (see the Scriptures below). This week’s article comes from the August 12 meditation in this month’s issue of The Word Among Us magazine. If there is anyone you still hold anger or bitterness toward, let this meditation inspire you forgive them completely, as your heavenly Father has forgiven you.
Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions. (Matthew 6:11-15)
Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart (Matthew 18:34-35)
When you stand to pray, forgive anyone against whom you have a grievance, so that your heavenly Father may in turn forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)
Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. (Luke 6:37)
Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us,
and do not subject us to the final test. (Luke 11:4)
There is a story about a world-weary elderly man after the time of the French Revolution who was reduced to begging. He wandered from town to town, seeking alms to keep himself alive. Upon entering one small town, he made his way to the church, hoping for a handout. He wasn’t a churchgoing man himself, but he stayed there because of the steady stream of passersby.
One day, after watching the beggar on the church steps, a young priest of the parish approached him. He gave the beggar a cloak and invited him to his own house for a meal. The beggar hesitated, saying he was not a religious man, but the priest insisted. For several days afterward, the priest invited him to find shelter in the rectory. Finally, the beggar agreed and spent many days receiving the care and hospitality of his new friend. Eventually, through this priest’s witness, the man decided to come back to the church.
He tearfully confessed to the priest that he felt alienated from God because of the guilt he felt for betraying the family he had worked for as a young man. His employer had entrusted his wife and children to his care during the Revolution, but the man betrayed them. He handed them over to the authorities, and all but the youngest child were sent to the guillotine.
After telling the priest his story, the man lifted his eyes and saw on the wall a portrait of the very family he had betrayed. He asked where the painting came from, and the young priest, with tears in his eyes, said that this was his family. He was the youngest child. Everyone else had been executed during the Revolution. Uttering the words of absolution, the priest added, “and I forgive you as well. Be at peace.”
We may not have to forgive such a grievous wrong, but we are all called to forgive—especially those closest to us, who often hurt us most deeply. Forgiveness like this opens the gates of heaven and allows God’s grace to be poured out on us and on the person we forgive. So let this story inspire you. And let it move you to be merciful as well!
“Lord, help me to become a channel of your mercy in my home!”
(Maurice Blumberg was the founding Executive Director of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.nfcmusa.org/), and is currently a Trustee. He is also the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry to the Military and Prisoners for The Word Among Us. Maurice can be contacted at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
[Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing me to use this daily meditation from the August issue of their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission.]
Questions for Reflection/Discussion by Catholic Men
1. Jesus’ words in the Scriptures above demonstrate clearly what he taught on forgiveness. How have these Scriptures impacted your understanding of the importance of forgiving others and the seriousness of unforgiveness?
2. Reflect on the words of Jesus from the Scriptures, and then ask him to reveal any unforgiveness in your heart. If he does, and you are in a men’s group, then enter into a time of repentance. Ask the Lord to forgive you for the sin of unforgiveness. Then forgive unconditionally any persons who are the object of your unforgiveness. Try to get to the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as you can as well.
3. In what way did the sin of betrayal hold the beggar in the story in bondage and alienated from God? In what way did the words of absolution by the priest release him from his bondage and alienation? How have you experienced release from bondage to sin and alienation from God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
4. It has been said that forgiving someone not only sets free the person being forgiven, but also the person doing the forgiving. In the story in the article, after giving absolution the priest said, “I forgive you as well. Be at peace.” In what way do you think this forgiveness by the priest played a role in setting not only the beggar free, but the priest as well, from weight of this devastating sin?
5. The prayer at the end of the article asks the Lord to help us be a channel of mercy in our homes. As you pray this prayer, also ask the Lord to show you some steps you need to take that will allow this to happen in a greater way.