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The power of forgiveness
September 26, 2011
by Fr. Thomas Balluff, St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, Delano

I think we all can remember very well where we were at the moment of the attacks of 9/11.

As I walked to my workplace, the television was on and my co-workers were all watching it. I asked what was happening and could see one twin tower burning in the background. Then, another plane hit the other tower. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so surreal, like a horror movie. It was just too “unbelievable.”

Pope Benedict XVI visited Ground Zero during his 2008 visit to the US. The Holy Father said this prayer to God at the site,

“We ask you, in your compassion, to bring healing to those who, because of their presence here that day . . . suffer from injuries and illness. Heal, too, the pain of still-grieving families and all who lost loved ones in this tragedy. Give them strength to continue their lives with courage and hope.”

This was the Pope’s prayer to God for all of us, but especially for those families hit hardest from the loss that this profound attack created.

There have been greater tragedies throughout human history, but this one is uniquely ours. It is regular, ordinary families that have suffered so deeply . . . a loss of a husband or a wife, a mom or a dad, an uncle or an aunt, firefighters, policemen, first responders… simply because a group of extremists hate us and our way of life.

Our nation is built on Judeo-Christian values. We believe in God. We believe that He sent to us His only begotten Son, Jesus, to save us from our sins through forgiveness and sorrow for our sin. Our country is not perfect, no doubt, but in its goodness, it is so beautiful in its ability to protect individual rights and care for its citizens.

In Matthew 18:21-22, we hear Jesus and Peter discuss how many times we must forgive our neighbor – not seven times, which would have been very generous, as Peter thought he was being, but Jesus says, “77 times.” Jesus is telling us that we must forgive our neighbor always.

The important reality about the concept of forgiveness is that when we learn how to do it, the bondage, the unhealthy connection between the perpetrator and the victim is broken. The victim no longer gives the abuser any power, and is no longer bound by resentment or grudges, by the hurt and pain from the experience. In forgiveness, we can begin to heal, grow, and even enjoy life again, because in learning how to forgive others, it actually sets us free.

One of the many great attributes of our God is that of Him being a God of forgiveness. We are all called to imitate this great quality..

I have a saying that I try to live by: “Forgive everyone, everything, all of the time.” This doesn’t mean to become a doormat. On the contrary, I believe we should hold each other accountable. We call that “tough love.”

But, at the same time, to forgive each other helps us to rise above our small, little, petty, limited human perspective. When we forgive, we begin to see the way God sees, from an objective reality, the way reality really is.

God forgives us of everything when we are sorry for our sins, and as we all know very well, we all need God’s forgiveness. Should we not then, forgive those around us with that very same generous spirit?

Jesus tells us to forgive each other 77 times. This means forgive always, for that is how we obtain the freedom that comes with being a child of God.

Oftentimes it is a very difficult process, this forgiveness thing. Hurts and wounds can run very deep. But the forgiveness process is what I would call the healing or conversion process. The more we forgive each other in the way God asks us to, the deeper the healing in our lives, and the happier we become.

The following note was found in the clothing of a dead child in the Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbuck during World War II:

“O Lord, remember not only those of good will, but also those of ill will . . .

“But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us; instead remember all of the fruits we have born because of this suffering . . .

“Our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, our greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble . . .

“When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have born . . . be their forgiveness.”

It is my belief that we must let our goodness render evil powerless everywhere, but especially when it comes to us personally. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful weapons we have at our disposal that is always on our side, and ready to use.