Who of us is in need of forgiveness? No, seriously, which one of us needs to be forgiven for hurting someone in our family, friends, our God, or even ourselves?
At a retreat for the Catholic Council of Women at St. Boniface March 19, a speaker shared her story of hurt and pain in growing up in a dysfunctional family, how she attempted to bury that pain by running away and medicating through alcohol, and how she ultimately surrendered to God’s unconditional love and redeeming power.
It was a very beautiful story of how God seemed to have known that she ultimately needed to be broken in order to be healed just like all of us who have experienced pain in the past and how it has affected the decisions we make in our lives now.
It is interesting that the pain and suffering we experience in this life can move us, almost to the edge, of choosing a life of bitterness and anger or a life of peace and love. Our own sinfulness can create in us an inability to forgive others, and even ourselves.
In the conversion process, the healing process, it has been my experience that one of the last areas of conversion in one’s life is learning how to forgive ourself for our own bad decisions, and the hurt and pain we may have caused family or friends, or really, anyone around us.
Forgiveness is one of God’s greatest qualities. And when we imitate God in forgiving those we’ve hurt, and even ourselves, we begin to grow in that most important aspect of conversion, interior freedom. As we learn to imitate God by forgiving everyone and ourselves, then we begin to mature in the spiritual life, and to experience the freedom of the children of God.
A very powerful story in the Bible tells of a woman caught in adultery. The scribes and pharisees attempt to trap Jesus by using the sin of this woman. The Mosaic Law, the law of the Old Testament, prescribes death for a woman caught in adultery. The trap sprung on Jesus here, is that if he says yes to the stoning of the woman, then he will break the Roman law of the time that says that the Jewish people may not put anyone to death thus He would become an insurrectionist. But if Jesus says no, then He will be breaking the Mosaic Law, which states that she should be stoned.
Ultimately, Jesus challenges the crowd away from judgment. He encourages them (and each one of us) where sin abounds, to both pardon and to ask to be pardoned. Jesus challenges that the one who has no sin should cast the first stone.
We are all sinners in need of Jesus’ redeeming power. Jesus forgives the woman and will forgive us of everything if we are sorry and choose to turn away from our sin.
We must always remember that the heart of the law is mercy. Jesus gives us the perfect example of an unconditional, non judgemental love in this story.
Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it, but rather, to save it. We need to learn to let God do the judging. We are called to unite with heaven, with the angels and the saints, to not judge anyone for their sins, but rather to simply help them to turn away from their sin.
As we move toward Easter, let us go to the Lord, seeing our own sins for what they are, and asking God’s forgiveness. And let us be generous in our forgiveness of others.
As we forgive others and ourselves, we mature in the spiritual life and live in the light.