Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the power of mercy and forgiveness

November is a month that reminds us of death. In the Church calendar All Saints and All Souls mark the first two days of the month. On November 11 the country celebrates Veterans' Day and for many it is a reminder of those veterans who gave "their last full measure of devotion" to defend this great land of ours. For me personally, the month is also a reminder of family members lost. All this reminding, remembering, recalling. So what's the message?

Look around you and consider what you have. Look at those relationships with the people close to you. Embrace them; hold on to them; love them; appreciate them.. For the truth is, you do not know how long you will have them or they have you.

Are there people who have hurt you?  Forgive them. Be reconciled to them. Release them from the prison of your anger and you will find that you have freed yourself.  Realize that all of us have fallen short and sinned before God. All of us deserve death. And yet His Son became a human being, a little baby, just so he could die for our sins and restore that relationship with Our Father. All of our sins, all of our failings, all of our evil actions toward one another He took upon Himself so that we might live and be free.

I so relish His mercy and forgiveness. I thank Him for being so compassionate to me. and I ask Him, "What can I do to show you my thanks?".

He told me - He told all of us what to do in the prayer He gave us.  He told us that when we pray for God to forgive our sins, we should forgive those who sin against us.

Powerful and scary.

I am to forgive those who hurt me. But wait that is not what the culture tells us. Society would have us linger in our hatred and anger. After all I have been harmed, hurt, assaulted, robbed, - you fill in the blank. Granted the person who commits wrong should suffer a punishment. Nothing in these thoughts suggest otherwise. And the punishment should be appropriate to the betterment of the person and the appeasement of true justice.  But what of the bigger picture. In a post Christian culture is it even to be considered? Are we left with the "quaint" stories of saints who as they are dying, forgive their murderers and nothing else?  And what about other hurts, the family kind, the strains between parents and children or between spouses or siblings or friends or co-workers?  How does one muster the strength to deal with betrayal and loss? How are we to respond, not just to the every day attacks but to the serious offenses that throw our lives into turmoil?

Christ's words are the same. Forgive them all the same.

If we truly believe that God is in control, that He loves us and only wants our happiness and joy, then whatever happens can be used by Him to bring about great good. But we must trust Him. And I think sometimes as we try to "contain" God in the box we have made for Him, that we conveniently forget His admonition to us. We want to be justified in our anger against the person who harmed us. We want that person to suffer because we have suffered.  Perhaps we forget that God uses these tragic events to teach us as well, and perhaps to bring us closer to Him - even when He is on the cross.

So as we continue throughout the month of November, let us seek to draw upon the Father's mercy and love. Let us recall the famous words of the playwright,

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Forgiveness can free us from the past, from the pain and from the control of the one who would not want us to forgive. Forgiveness is more powerful than the evil that would destroy us. It is the one gift that can bring us life and restore any broken relationship. It is fitting then that November ends with both Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent in the Christian calendar.  Both events speak to an appreciation for the mercy and love of Divine Providence. Both call us to reconcile with one another so that we may break the cycle of cynicism and hate. In this way we can teach our children the lasting benefits of mercy and forgiveness. 

So as we pray for the many troubles of the day, take time to pray for those who have hurt you. Reconcile with them and ask God to give you the strength to forgive them as He would have you do.