Tag Archives: Forgiveness

A Saint for Today

October 31, 2017

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On Saturday, November 4th Sr. Rani Marie (Who’s name translates as Queen Mary) will be beatified, the first step toward canonization. A member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation from Kerala, India, Sr. Rani Marie was martyred 22 years ago. She was murdered by landlords who were against missionary activities by the Catholic Sisters, while working among the poor. Sr. Rani Maria was 41 when Samandar Singh, hired by some landlords, stabbed her inside a bus on February 25, 1995. She had worked among poor landless agricultural laborers and others to fight for just wages and other rights.

Her amazing story did not end with her death; in fact, it is where it starts. While serving 11 years in prison, Samandar Singh plotted to get revenge on the landlords that pushed him into killing the nun, that is until another nun came to visit. Sister Selmi Paul, who happened to be the murdered nun’s own sister came to him, hugged him and called him brother. He was profoundly touched by her gesture, so much so that from this embrace his journey of repentance began. He gave up plans for revenge and converted to Catholicism.  Now, released from prison, Sr. Rani Marie’s family treats him like a brother, in fact it was Sr. Rani’s family that lobbied for his release from prison.  They have adopted him into their family.

I heard about this story at about the same time I heard of the tragedy in Las Vegas. I happened to be at a daily Mass the day after the shootings that killed 58 people.  Even as they death count was still being tallied, the priest at this daily Mass jarred me when he led us all in a prayer for the 59th victim…the shooter. It is a strange thing as Catholics that we are called not only to love our friends but to love our enemies.   Love them so much so that we pray for them along with our loved ones.

A priest I recently heard was expounding on the Blessed Mother at the cross of Christ and hearing the words, “Behold, your Mother.” He said, “At that moment, Mary, knowing that her son was dying for our sins and dying for the sins of even John, who’s home she would then enter, was being asked to be mother to the ones her son was dying for.”  “Who,” he challenged the mothers in the audience, “would be able to take on that role of mothering the ones who were the cause of their own son’s death?”

Only a saint. Only our Queen Mary.

Most of us will never be martyred or hopefully never be in the position to forgive a murder of a family member, but all of us have someone we need to forgive.  It could be someone who has caused us some pain in some way, a friend, co-worker, boss, or family member.  It could be someone even closer and the initiator of very deep pain such as a parent, spouse, abuser or even a child.  The lives of the saints are not just stories of the outwardly heroic, but they are the examples of everyday forgiveness.

St. Richard’s in Richfield, 7540 Penn Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55423, will be celebrating a 4:00 p.m. Syro-Malabar (Eastern  Rite) Catholic Mass on Sunday November 5 in honor of Rani Marie’s Beatification.  All are welcome to attend!

 

 

 

 

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The Cross: Our hope for forgiveness and salvation

July 22, 2016

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crucifixion

On the day that we die, we want to go to heaven to be with God, the angels and saints, and our loved ones who have gone before us, to live for all eternity in peace and joy, but there is one enormous obstacle to our admittance to heaven:  our sins.

No one is worthy to go to heaven on their own merit.  It is impossible to do enough good works or earn enough graces to pay the price of admission.  The price is too high.  It is beyond us.

St. Paul explains that there is a “bond against us, with its legal claims” (Col 2:14).  The bond is like an indictment handed down by a grand jury or a criminal complaint filed by the county attorney that accuses a person of specific crimes that have been committed.  Spiritually, “the bond against us” is filed by God, and it is a list of all of our sins, our transgressions against “The Law,” either the Mosaic Law and the commandments or the Law of Love and Jesus’ gospel teachings.  The law has legal claims.  We are expected to obey, to live a good and holy life, and if we fail to comply, our violations have dire consequences; we could be barred from heaven and doomed to eternal punishment.

In Roman times “the bond” was nailed to the cross.  When a criminal was sentenced to death by crucifixion, not only were the criminal’s hands and feet nailed to the wood, but a list of the criminal’s crimes were written in large letters in ink on a piece of papyrus and nailed to the cross, posted in plain sight for everyone to read (see Jn 19:19).  Not only was the person’s naked body exposed, so were their crimes.

If we are honest with ourselves, we must humbly admit that “the bond against us” is long.  We have committed many sins over our lifetime.  God has a written criminal complaint against us.  It is humbling, embarrassing.  We are terrified at the prospect.  On Judgment Day God has every right to condemn us and post the list, but God has no desire whatsoever to condemn us.

God so loves the world that he sent his only begotten son Jesus that we might have eternal life (Jn 3:16).  Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death on the cross (Phil 2:8), and by the price he paid, Jesus has gained our redemption and salvation.  It was on the Cross with the blood he shed and the life he laid down that our sins have been wiped away.

Jesus obliterated our bond that was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14).  The ink on ancient papyrus did not sink into the fabric like modern ink binds to the paper.  The ink laid on the surface, and because papyrus was so expensive it was often reused after the ink had been wiped clean.  Jesus obliterated our sins on his triumphant Cross.  He wiped our list of sins clean, never to be seen again, entirely forgotten, completely absolved.  In the Cross is our salvation!

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God’s Boundless Mercy and the Forgiveness of our Sins, the Major Point of Emphasis in Lent

February 26, 2016

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UnknownA Vertical Thread.  The readings for Lent in each of the three liturgical years have a “vertical thread,” a unifying theme or topic that runs “up and down” over a series of consecutive weeks.  The thread is not built into the First Sunday of Lent, the temptations of Jesus in the desert, and the Second Sunday of Lent, the Transfiguration, but emerges on the Third Sunday of Lent and continues until Passion Sunday.  In Year C the thread is forgiveness.

Why Forgiveness?  We are sinners.  We have strayed from God and the commandments, been lost in the darkness, frivolous with our gifts, stuck in our ways, impatient and unkind, greedy and self-centered, angry and mean, impolite and impure, dishonest and unfaithful.  Fallen and broken, we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

The Third Sunday of Lent (Lk 13:1-9).  The gospel is the parable of the unproductive fig tree.  The tree represents each of us.  Over time, because of our sins, we have done far fewer good deeds than we should have done; we have not borne much good fruit.  The owner of the vineyard, God, is rightfully upset, and considering a severe punishment, the removal of the tree.  But the gardener, Jesus, asks for mercy, that we be given a second chance, and he offers “cultivation and fertilization,” more grace and blessings, so we might be given another chance to bear good fruit.  Jesus takes no delight whatsoever in punishment.

The Fourth Sunday of Lent (Lk 15:1-3,11-32).  The Parable of the Prodigal Son, or better stated, the Parable of the Forgiving Father, is the premier forgiveness parable in the gospel of Luke.  Like the young son, each of us has squandered our gifts from God.  We have offended God, our Father, and no longer deserve to be considered God’s children.  Yet, if we return home to God, God is waiting with open arms, and God will embrace us and welcome us back.

The Fifth Sunday of Lent (Jn  8:1-11).  The gospel is the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery.  Adultery is a grave sexual sin, and in the Jewish faith it was a capital offense punishable by death by stoning. But Jesus in his mercy said, “Neither do I condemn you” (Jn 8:11).  Again, Jesus was incredibly merciful.  If we have committed sins against purity, Jesus would prefer to set punishment aside.  All he wants is that from now on we would not commit these sins any more (see Jn 8:11).

Passion Sunday (Lk 22:14-23:49).  When Jesus was condemned and crucified, he was grossly mistreated by the religious leaders and his execution squad, yet he said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34), and when the repentant criminal asked for mercy, Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43).  In every case, Jesus had no desire to punish.  His deepest desire was to forgive and reunify the person to God.  May each of us rejoice in God’s gift of forgiveness, and conduct ourselves in a way that is pleasing to God.

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Mary Magdalene and Me

July 22, 2014

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I suppose it is fitting that I write a post on this day – July 22.  Mary of Magdala is my patron saint and today is her feast day.  She is the saint name I took for my confirmation.  When I was in fourth grade as to what name I was to take for my confirmation name – I said Mary.  My confirmation instructor praised me for choosing Mary – the mother of Christ but I quickly retorted and said, “Oh no, I want to be the bad Mary.” I am not sure if this speaks to the bad preparation I received in my catechesis and confirmation prep or if it speaks of the bad idea of having 4th graders confirmed.

Through the years and through my reconversion to the faith, I have come to love Mary Magdalene and embrace her as my patron saint.  She is often associated with the woman caught in adultery, (John 8:1-11) but there is no biblical reference that the woman was Mary Magdalene.  She is mentioned as the women whom Jesus has cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9) and of course she was one of the women who stayed at the cross of Jesus even when others fled. Maybe the most important role she played as the apostle to the apostles is to be the first to witness Jesus after the resurrection!

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’

Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ — which means Master. (John 20:15-16)

I love this narrative – I often joked that Mary Magdalene must have been a blonde! I mean really, how can someone be looking right at Jesus and think he is the gardener? But, if I am honest, how many times have I been looking at Jesus and not seen Him? And how many times have I been looking at a gardener and think he was Jesus.

Following Jesus in the steps of Mary Magdalene is very fitting for me.  I am a sinner.  I have my seven demons and I believe Jesus is casting them out one by one.  And even if the biblical figure of the woman caught in adultery isn’t Mary Magdalene, I know Jesus forgives me  like the woman caught in adultery.  I also know that Jesus defends me even when I have no other advocate (John 8:7).

So today I celebrate my Saint Day and be reminded that my sins are forgiven, that Jesus defends me and that he loves me through the most difficult times.

 

'Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb', artist unknown

‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb’, artist unknown

A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

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The Prodigal Father

March 6, 2013

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Liscensed under Creative Commons

Liscensed under Creative Commons

We all know the story of the prodigal son.  It seems to pop up in the liturgy this time of year and I have worn a crease in my bible in that spot so that it falls open to that story often.  Every time I read it I am brought to reflect on “who am I?” in the story.

There are times when I see myself as the one who ran off and enjoyed the pleasures of life and spent my life carelessly, but this time when my bible fell open to Luke 15, the resentful son seemed to look a lot like me.   Recently I was confronted with a disappointment in my life.  We all have them.  It could be that you are passed up for a promotion, or that your friend gets a new car, or that you weren’t invited to a social gathering or it could date back to being the last one picked on the playground some 30 years ago. We may have been wronged and we may want justice, but like the resentful son I can sometimes whine and only see my point of view.

It takes looking at this from the Father’s eyes for me to see myself.  I like to call him the Prodigal Father because it is from that perspective I need to see.

1prod·i·gal

adjective \?prä-di-g?l\Definition of PRODIGAL

: characterized by profuse or wasteful expenditure : lavish

The word Prodigal means to spend lavishly.  The father in the story does spend extravagantly, but not in a wasteful way.  He spent lavishly on the wayward son by hosting the big party, but he also spent lavishly on the son who stayed home and worked dutifully.

‘My son, you are here with me always;
everything I have is yours.~ Luke 15:31

Everything is there for me too.

God spends lavishly on us.  A small detail in the Cana wedding story opened my eyes to this.  In that story the servants fill the water jars to the brim.  Have you ever seen a container filled to overflowing?  The liquid seems to fill the space above the confines of the cup or jar. There is sort of a surface tension that holds it in the glass.  It is so full it can’t be contained but it doesn’t spill over! That is how I imagine Gods love for me and how I have to try, time after time, to remember to love others and myself.

There is another point to the story that also caught me this time around.  The Father doesn’t hesitate to point out the bad behavior of his elder son.  He does so with so much love and an invitation to join the party.  This gives me cause to reflect on how we might rightly handle the injustices we face.  By seeing it from the father’s eyes we can see clearly that a behavior or situation may be wrong or need correcting, but if we can approach it with lavish love it goes a long way.

I am, once again, resolving to be the prodigal Mother, wife, employee and friend and spend lavishly when I feel like pouting.  I invite you, even in this season of Lent and self-denial – Spend Lavishly!

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Waiting in line for confession? What to do and not do

March 26, 2012

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In line for confession at the Vatican or anywhere else, make the most of the wait time. Photo/rufty Licensed under Creative Commons

I plan on going to confession before Easter and I know I’m not alone. No matter how often Catholics receive the sacrament, many find this is an especially good time to seek forgiveness and healing in preparation for Our Lord’s Passion and Resurrection.

I don’t know if there will be a long line at my church when I go but I’m guessing I’ll  have to wait. I don’t like it but it’s a great way to work on patience–a virtue that comes up often when I’m in the confessional.

If you’re like me and you sometimes do your formal preparation for confession during the car ride to church, waiting in line to receive the sacrament of reconciliation offers the chance to slow down and really think about what I’m doing.

If you get to church and find a long confession line, maybe the first thing to ask is, do I really need to go right now? If you’re confessing venial rather than mortal sins, confessing them is a good idea but when many others in line may have more serious sins to confess, you can seek forgiveness during Mass, as Father Zuhlsdorf suggests in his blog.

Ways to prepare for confession while waiting

  • Pray: Ask God to help you make a good confession. Pray the rosary for His guidance. One friend prays that he can be honest and confess all the Lord wants him to, and also that he’ll be receptive to what God wants to reveal to him through the priest. Here are some pre-confession prayers.
  • Prepare: This site offers a good guide for making a confession and Catholics Come Home offers a number of resources.
  • Examine: If you’re not sure everything came to mind during your car examination, make a more thorough examination of conscience now. Check one of these sites while you’re waiting:
    Here’s one that offers both preparation for the sacrament and an examination of conscience.
    This one might be hard to read on a phone but I think it’s good.
    Father John Hardon offers an in-depth examination of conscience.
    This examination is also thorough.
  •  Reflect on your sins and seeking forgiveness. Read the bible. Some churches offer guides with prayers or reflections near the confessional. Orthodox priest Father Ted Bobosh offers a beautiful meditation on confession and the wisdom writings in the book of Sirach on his blog.

A  few things not to do in line

  • Talk:  This is not the time to get to know fellow parishioners. You disturb others who are praying and concentrating on receiving the sacrament.
  • Text, Surf or play games on your phone: Using your phone or iPad to pray or do an examination of conscience will help prepare you for the sacrament but texting or using other apps won’t. Try turning it off if you’re not using it for preparation.
  • Sing or pray out loud:  Find another place in the church for this if it helps you prepare.

The idea of going to confession makes some people anxious enough without adding a long wait in line. If we can see this wait time as a gift rather than an early penance we can go into the confessional the same way we leave it–with peace.

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Advice for a healthy marriage

July 19, 2011

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If you know a man and a woman who just married or who plan to soon, pass along this advice from Mary T. Carty from her book “PMAT: The Perfect Marriage Aptitude Test.” It’s the kind of thing every married couple — new, or even not so new — might tape to the bathroom mirror to read every day.

  • No two people are exactly alike.
  • No two people think exactly alike.
  • You cannot read your partner’s mind.
  • Your partner cannot read your mind.
  • We are human and make mistakes.
  • It is impossible to change other people.
  • It is possible to change your actions and attitudes.
  • Treat the other person the same way you would like to be treated.
  • People have different opinions, likes, dislikes, and beliefs.
  • It is a human quality to have and show emotions.
  • It is a human quality for your partner to have and to show emotions.
  • It takes courage to accept differences.
  • It takes courage to forgive.
  • Patience is a virtue.
  • No one is perfect.
  • Love conquers fear.
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‘To forgive, divine’

July 3, 2008

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“The Forgiveness Book,”
by Alice Camille & Paul Boudreau

and

“The Power of Forgiveness,”
by Kenneth Briggs

Two very different approaches tackling the same subject isn’t unique. Two very different books tackling the same subject happens frequently.

But that authors tackle the same subject for the same reason — that a book on forgiveness has never been more needed — maybe that’s a message that the subject is not just interesting but vital.

Just over 100 pages long — counting the useful and worthwhile appendix — “The Forgiveness Book” is an easy read that offers countless good reasons for making a “divine” response when others err.

Camille, an award-winning writer and Father Boudreau, an oft-published priest-columnist, come at the rationale for forgiveness from an admittedly Catholic perspective. This is a little book laced with down-to-earth reasoning that explains significant theology in simple, easily understood language.

Alternatives no bargain
They acknowledge that forgiveness is “an ugly job,” but that “the alternative to forgiveness is far uglier: hardened hearts, broken relationships, memories full of shrapnel, and families or communities paralyzed and divided.”

If we don’t choose to forgive, we get trapped in the addictive pattern of condemnation, blaming, open hostility, self-righteousness, hidden resentment, cold anger, cynicism — the list goes on and on — and the one we do the most damage to is ourselves, because not to forgive “weighs us down, saps our energy, hurts our bodies and leaves us weary.”

There is a platitude or two of advice here, but most helpful is a brief, seven-point list of what forgiveness is — and what it is not. Importantly, the authors aren’t afraid to address the concept of sin, and do so in the healthy express of “missing the mark” in what we ought to be aiming at in our actions, decisions and relationships.

They stress that forgiveness is a choice, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation gets high marks as a structure that makes that choice easier.

Camille and Boudreau summarize their work well:

“Forgiveness is not just a thing nice people do. It’s not a tactic we might consider for personal improvement or to tidy up our spiritual lives. As the world we live in spirals toward greater feats of injustice, greed, violence and bigotry, the reasons to forgive mount astronomically. The cost of unforgiveness, too, becomes ever more apparent. . . . The human race must learn to forgive, to practice forgiveness, to choose it, to seek it, to value it, and to want it. That means each of us individually must do the same, because the whole world begins in the human heart.”

From film to print
Kenneth Briggs’ “The Power of Forgiveness” is based on a film by Martin Doblmeier and delves into the topic by looking at specific instances of forgiveness and analyzing them, then going several steps deeper.

The most recent, the murder spree that left five Amish schoolchildren dead and five wounded in a Pennsylvania classroom, is the opening to view forgiveness from the religious perspective. The most interesting portion of this was Briggs’ parsing of the idea that the Amish’ forgiveness of the madman murderer was “a spiritual reflex,” something the Amish learn “by watching parents and neighbors forgive and by looking at the example of Jesus.”

Several of the world’s religions get a similar analysis.

A section on the sociological perspective wonders if those who forgive may be healthier than those who don’t. Another chapter discusses how very difficult — even impossible — forgiveness can seem. There’s brief mention of the death penalty debate and the film “Dead Man Walking,” plus the complex grief of a mother of a New York City firefighter who died on 9/11, and even a few paragraphs that touch upon the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

The most interesting quote from that latter part?

“Somehow a refusal to pardon guilty priests provides a balance to years of having forgiven them too much. . . . For most lawyers fighting for huge cash settlements, forgiveness is unthinkable, even laughable.”

There’s much more, but let me recommend this book by quoting from one quoted in it, author and lecturer Marianne Williamson:

“At a time when we see so much evil, we are called upon . . . to stand for the possibility of human redemption that turns even the hardest of hearts.” — bz

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