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We must go to this Child, this Man, the Son of God, at whatever inconvenience, at whatever risk to ourselves, because to know and love him will change our lives.

St. John Paul II

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When I began …

When I began five and a half years ago writing daily about faith and culture, the world and our country was much different.  I thought of my task as one of providing spiritual comfort, help, guidance to those who suffered and were astray, puzzled, confused, betrayed, injured, hurt.

In the interim, I had to adjust to an additional task, that of evangelization. Introducing others to Christ, reminding them of Christ, and of the indispensable place of faith in human existence and human community.

Yet, as things began to disintegrate in our country, as battle lines were drawn and political and ideological hostility divided us and corruption and untruth emerged, my task changed again to include comments on public life, politics, psychology and the like – for it became obvious that as a country we were distinctive because faith played a vital, irreplaceable role in our founding, our history, our prosperity, our identity, our existence.

However, in these years one constant remained – our need to be anchored in our faith – to make certain that nothing displaces that, and God as our center, no matter the controversy.

 Gospel is Revelation

The Gospel is not a story, not history, nor myth.  It is Revelation.  To read the Gospel otherwise is to miss the mark, to miss its depth, its singular uniqueness.

The Gospel is God’s revealing Himself to you, to us, to mankind and to the world. The Gospel shows us what is divine, the deepest reality that exists.

In the Gospel we are invited into God, invited to know God – the Creator.  To be invited into God is to be invited into Love, for God is love.

The Gospel reveals what God wishes for us.  It is existential reality.  Like no other, it introduces us to certainty, identity, intimacy, forgiveness, the endless forever.

The Gospel is the daily encounter with God in Christ, our constant companion if only we allow it.

In Christ, God speaks, lives, acts, loves, suffers, dies and rises again.  Yes, in the Gospel is grace given, gift offered.

No matter the state of our being – indeed in times of our greatest errors and confusion – one question remains: Do we live a Gospel life?

Shalom.

When a man offers a sacrifice peace offerings to the Lord … from the herd or of the flock, it must be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no defect in it.

Lev. 22:21

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This is a passage from the Old Testament that addresses the offerings of calves and lambs to the Lord.  Yet, it makes a point that applied today.

The point?  When we offer ourselves to God we are to strive humbly to offer the best each of us are, and can be.  The point is this, to me, we are to strive to live as well as we can, knowing that we will sometimes fail and that it is in the intention to give our best to God that we conform to this passage.

So today, this short message: dedicate yourself to God by simply living as well as you can – in kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, welcome, love, understanding and the like.

In short, live each day to the fullest.  Accept life as it is presented and grow in the rust and love of God. Your life is a gift.

Your life is what you try to live. Nobody can live it for you or instead of you.

Carl Jung, M.D.

Make of your life – a good offering.

Shalom.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from iniquity.

1 Jn 1:8-9

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Sin.  Failure.  This is part of human existence.  We will all know failure and sin in this mortal life.

How many of us know that with failure or sin comes God’s love and support?  How many live as if that is not so, as if they have done something that is unforgivable, inexcusable?  Think of the burden we create in carrying that guilt.   That is an unnecessary burden.  We do not have a “one strike and you’re out” God.

Yes, sin and failure may bring us humility, cut us down to human size – but neither sin nor failure is a permanent and insurmountable burden.  God is merciful and forgives us our sins and understands our failures and our sin.

We will all fall in this life.  But to each forgiveness is available, and mercy is in long supply.

Those who do not believe seem to have to deny failure and sin.  This makes one brittle, defensive and makes being human much, much harder.  Such a disposition eliminates, or at least narrows, ones capacity for forgiveness and the understanding of others.

In the strangest, supernatural way failure and sin are designed, it seems, to teach us humility, to invite us into relationship with the One Perfect One, to grow in us compassion and forgiveness as to self and others.  From this: real friendship and intimacy, and less hurt and anxiety.

Failure and sin is, in God’s design, a gateway to our full humanity and to Him. Likewise to others – our co-workers, neighbors, strangers, siblings, parents, children, friends who will, just as us, sin and fail.

See the perfect design of the Perfect One.

Dear God, forgive our sins, our failures.  Strengthen us in all that is good in us, all that you made us to be at our best.  Help us live in the confidence that we are human and You forgive.

Shalom.

The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Jn 10:10

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These are the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John.  They are cornerstone words – critical to living a life, and to our well-being.

” … that you may have life and have it abundantly …”

Have you ever thought of what these words tell you?  Have you ever thought what truth they contain?  The depth of that truth?

These are not mere platitude, not a trite remark.  Rather, they speak to our wholeness as human beings.  They speak to our full and healthy human development, and to God’s economy – how God functions in our life and in human existence, and in the universe since the beginning of time.

In this autobiography Memories, Dreams, Reflections psychotherapist Carl Jung, M.D., says:

Man’s task is … to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious … his destiny … is to create more and more consciousness.  As far as we can discern, the purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Life abundant.  Jung describes what Jesus refers to as a union of our conscious state with our unconscious state. This is for Jung a union of opposites, a way to wholeness, reconciliation, health, understanding, peace and contentment. It is for Jung a union of what we know and what resides within to be known.

Jung goes on to say in his autobiography as to the unification of opposites (what is known and to be known) that the incarnation of God can be understood as union of God and man and a motif for the full development of the human person, for the unification of what is known and what is to be known – carried within to be known in our lifetime.

Jung’s words give depth to what Jesus is saying as to an abundant life.  The point being: that we are made be an assembled whole, to know God, to be linked as human with the Divine, to be joined – man with God, to become less a mystery to ourselves by realizing we are secure and contained in the Mystery of God.

Simply said: the union of God and man shown in the incarnation brings light from darkness.  Light literally arises from darkness.  What is obscure to man is understood and sight is gained, two become One.

What does this mean?

God assembles the whole person and gives us Christ to show us this.  God makes good from error in doing so.   Indeed, God lifts us out of error so that even error might be a way to Him, to wholeness, to the union of the human person with the Divine Creator.  Good from error: union of opposites.  Light from darkness.

I offer a typical way one might see this.

Let’s say a person finds himself or herself in an adulterous relationship.  Yes, a mistake for sure – but when the event ends that person discovers the origin in them of that conduct.

That origin may be a history of not knowing their worth, their value and their place in intimacy.  Or maybe that conduct stems from child sexual abuse, or a cold and emotionally unavailable set of parents.

Strange as it is, the error may clarify one’s past, one’s deficits and lead to self-understanding and growth.

The point is not to say: the conduct was justified, but rather that the conduct was manifest by an injury or deficit and identified an injury that required attention. Out of error, growth and good can emerge.  God uses all things to lead us to Him and to wholeness, to abundant life.

Many a person has learned of abundance through error which clarifies and corrects.

There is truth in what Jesus says.  God desires our wholeness and Jesus presents this to us in word and deed.  Jung sees this and in his own profession and its language he tells us of it.

You need not fear mistake.  Hasten to hear the words of Jesus – you are called to wholeness, to kindle light from darkness.  Abundant life awaits you.  It comes, often, out of error – for out of error: wholeness.

Shalom.

… what was great in the morning will be little at evening, and what in the morning was true, will at evening have become a lie.

Carl Jung

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The ego is full of defenses and the soul is not.  Morning is not night.

When we age and approach the end of life it is best to shed the ego for it is the soul that meets eternity.  Yet, the mortal world engages the ego and keeps a grasp on us.  It does so in many ways.

How might we shed the ego and embrace the soul?  As day becomes night and light dims.

Be conscious of what tethers us to the ego – our fears, our habits and ways of thinking, endless tasks, our concerns about the demands of mortal existence and all its structures.  These are the predicates of attachment to mortality and living in the ego.  From these flow the particulars – telephone calls not returned, anger at insults met, affronts of one sort or another that flow from daily discourse, distances from others, voices lost that once were not.  All these stir the ego and hide the soul from us in daylight.

But we are souls, eternal beings – and destined for eternity – life without end, life in the soul.  As light closes we see.

To shed the ego is to find the soul, to know what is eternal in the mortal world.

Without ego we meet the soul, who we are.  With the ego this is not so, for in ego we are bent to the world’s dimension not God’s form and being – blinded by daylight.

The art of being and our deepest, inexhaustible, actual identity is in the soul.

In aging and mortality, we meet the soul if we shed the ego, create a distance from the day-to-day, accept dusk and its gentle tones, sit quiet in the afternoon.

Aging is a blessed time.  A time of settling up and clearances – open fields where the soul reigns and the ego fades.

Aging is the soul’s time, an entry to the eternal.

Do not fret when your children forget you.  Their life is in the mortal world where ego governs among the fears and customs.  Your journey when young was quite the same.   But now you live who once did not.  The morning is not evening.

Shalom.

Where charity and love prevail, there God is forever found; brought here together by Christ’s love, by love are we thus bound.

Omer Westendoft, 1916-1997

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These are the words of the first verse from the hymn Where Charity and Love Prevail, a hymn based on the 9th century Ubi Caritas.  

We are bound by love.  We are bound by Christ’s love.  We are brought together by Christ’s love.  Where charity and love prevail there is God – and where it is expressed there is God present and God with us forever – not just for the moment, not just in temporal time – but forever – for eternity. 

In my work I get to sit with others and listen to them – to hear their stories. Often the stories are of trials present and trials past – past long ago or more recently.  In these stories I hear in the words of others that God is present, God is at work – God is at God’s loving work – growing a person, a couple, a family … teaching, beckoning a deeper relationship in the hearts of those who falter, fear or fail.

In these stories I see so clearly the loving hand on the shoulder of the wounded child of God who has been rescued, a sheep found and restored to the sheepfold.  And in these stories I see one who stood with the lost sheep and was as Christ the shepherd – always loving, wounded but loving all the same.

What I see moves me to tears when I am alone – tears for the awesome witness to a loving God, to Christ, that these stories bring to those privileged to be told of them.

Friends, there is nothing – absolutely nothing that can prevail over the love of God, the life of Christ given to us, embodied in us.  Never fear ” … the terror of the night nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that roams in darkness nor the plague that ravages at noon.” (Ps 51:5-6)  Nothing the human nor nature can do can surpass the power of God or God’s love.

We are armed, each of us, with Christ, with charity and love.  We are bound together in Christ, Christ evidenced in the presence of those who witness for us this charity, this love.

Let us raise up in grateful prayer today for those who have loved us and cared for us when we have been less lovable and less caring. How these Christs to us have saved our life, have suffered to save our life – suffered as Christ to save us …because they loved and loved us.  May God know our gratitude for the One who Loves and His presence in those who have loved us.

… nothing – absolutely nothing … can prevail over the love of God, the life of Christ given to us …

Shalom.

…. Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me.”

Jn 13:21

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Even Jesus was shaken by betrayal.

Why is that?  There is something so injurious about betrayal and it is this: betrayal mars trust and trust is the foundation of love and of a full, joyous and free life.

We cannot love without giving ourselves fully to another.  Love relies on trust, a full commitment to another who you trust with your heart.

What might we do when we are betrayed?  It depends.  Each case is distinct to the one whose trust is violated.  Much depends on the actions of the one who breached your trust.

Jesus shows us something of how we might react to a breach of trust.  Both Judas and Peter betrayed Jesus.  Judas did so my arranging the apprehension of Jesus by his adversaries who desired his death.  Peter denied three times that he knew Jesus after Jesus was arrested.  Peter, however, did not abandon Jesus fully and in the resurrected Christ’s presence affirmed three times that he loved Jesus.  Judas, on the other hand, was unable to face Christ and committed suicide.

What might we learn from this?  Peter did not abandon the remnant of faith he possessed.  Judas, on the contrary, acted devoid of faith and paid a heavy price of self-inflicted death as a result.

My point is this: faith matters when one is betrayed.  Faith plays a vital role in the one betrayed and the one who betrays.  If faith is present in each, trust may be repaired.  If the betrayer, however, does not contain faith, then it is hard to expect trust to be restored.  You might ask: “Why?”

Those with faith can honestly look at themselves and reckon candidly and completely what they did and why.  They, unlike those without faith, can resurrect trust from the humility and regret that befalls them when they recognize what they have done.  In effect, in that situation, the betrayer is as hurt by his or her deeds as the one who is betrayed.

Do not be discouraged.  Seek faith and seek the company of those who live in faith.

Shalom.

There is no need to fear loss.  Nor is there any reason to park personal loss in the darkened recess of your heart never to be reviewed, faced, understood, integrated into your life.  Yet, most people ignore loss the way they shun their own errors, mischief, wrongdoing.

A failure to attend to and accept losses is a failure to attend to a full life.  Odd as it is we try to shelve losses as if they or our own failures in life are avoidable.

I often find people who tell me of errors they have previously made in life and for which they are remorseful.  Yet, these people carry their errant deeds as if they are never fully aware that they can be forgiven.  Indeed, some carry these deeds despite a belief in a loving and merciful God.  I know when I hear them in their remorseful yet unforgiven state that they are also likely to be carrying losses that they dare not acknowledge.

To those with losses I say this: in loss we learn who we are.  In loss we come to self-understanding.  In loss we gain humility and wisdom and come to understand others and see them better, come to realize that often their hurtful conduct or narrowed existence bespeak a need to accept all that life has given them – losses and errors included.

Loss need not be feared.  It is part of life and cannot be avoided.

Shalom.

“… we enter into the mystery of the human person.”

Pope Francis

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In a recent interview Pope Francis was discussing ministry and he so aptly reminded the interviewer that when one offers spiritual companionship and care to another one is entering into the mystery of the human person, and I would add entering into the mystery of God as well.

To the latter part, the mystery of God, I say this any conversation in which we engage the life, heart and soul of another is a conversation in which God is present and in which God supplies the words that will be said.

My work allows me to engage people in conversations about their life, their work, their deep concerns, the temptations and questions that life brings to them, the challenges of human existence.

Often people tell me of an event in their life in which their conduct was, in their own view, troublesome – not their best moment.  Many people bring me words of multiple errors and failed conduct.  My response virtually always attends to this simple question: What does this (conduct) do for you, to you?  How does this help you?  What does it do to you?

My point is always the same: humans are combustible and we stray, we falter – and this is precisely why we need a relationship with our faith, with a loving God.  Likewise, I say that our failures humble us and teach us lessons that we are intended to learn so we might grow and journey to God, deepen our faith.

When asked by my conversation partner what I think of them given their conduct I say this: I think you are a human being.  They are almost always stunned.  Stunned because I do not condemn them.

Our task is not to condemn; it is to love and in loving to show them evidence of the God who is Love.

People are the “mystery of the human person.”  Our failures are no surprise to God, nor are they unseen by God.  Yet, God stands ready to embrace us and strengthen us so that we might know how to forgive ourselves, know that we are forgiven … and learn to forgive others as well.

Life is very much about coming to know the mystery of the human person and the mystery of God – one in the same.

Shalom.

There are, of course, modern monks.  They live among us.  How might we see them?

You identify modern monks by how they live.  They have moved from a false self to a true self, having looked critically at the way culture has shaped them for the worse and decided that they are called to live not in the exterior but from the interior, from the soul outward. They have, in this process, examined who they are and derived a knowledge of self, and a knowledge (and relationship) with truth and the Divine.  Their eye is sharp and their soul engaged.

These modern monks live in truth and do so in the every day, and the living of every day.  These modern monks spend time in solitude, in the Spirit and they respond to who they are, who they truthfully are – humble, vulnerable, imperfect, blessed, grateful, intended human beings seeking to love, do good, to be useful with their days, their skills and experience, and their identity.

Their work worships the Gift-Giver – in silence, and perhaps in voice – but, yes, in deed.

The modern monk does well with emotions, shows calm and insight, can ask for forgiveness and forgives, assumes fault and folly as part of their being, ceaselessly seeks what is True and what is Good.

The modern monk lives more in the unknown and unknowable than in the narrow confides of the “certain.”  The modern monk does not court illusion; knows injury, and suffering but knows each directs us to comfort others.

The modern monk lives among us but lives differently from others, has made conscious choices to detach from what is harmful and distracting.  The modern monk is likely to be alone, or be alone amid others.

The modern monk has likely re-sculptured his or her life, made choices to let loose what needed to be let loose, so that fewer things can be held, fewer true things in place of many false things.

The modern monk likely shares himself or herself with others in most of what they do.

Is there a monk in you?

Shalom.

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