June 18, 2010

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

In forgiving others, we discover pure joy

Rick HermannOne of the blessings of the sacrament of reconciliation is that it teaches us how to say “I’m sorry.”

These words open the divine doors to heavenly joy.

In humility, we learn how to forgive others and how to receive the infinite mercy of God.

For instance, imagine a boy who goes to reconciliation and tells the priest he is sorry for kicking his brother.

Later, as a teenager, he admits to his father that he stole some money from his wallet.

As a husband, he asks his wife to forgive him for being insensitive.

As a father, he apologizes to his son for losing his temper.

As an old man, he kneels alone in the back of the church and asks God to forgive him for his sins. He wipes a tear from his eye, forgiven and renewed once more, and gives thanks.

Thus, God redeems us, heals us and teaches us to forgive others.

Many families teach their children to resolve conflicts. They expect their kids to talk out their problems, and they encourage reconciliation.

Some families do not practice forgiveness so the children never learn how to apologize or forgive others.

For those who never learned, Scripture teaches us how to forgive and find joy.

First, we pray for the ability to forgive others with God’s help.

We contemplate the fact that God sometimes allows other people to offend us, not because he wants us to suffer, but to teach us to forgive others as he forgives us.

We do well to consider that God can use hurtful people to redirect our gaze away from them and toward him so that we may learn forgiveness from his example.

We remember that our true family consists of other believers as Jesus taught. This opens us to healing and counsel from fellow believers.

Finally, we meditate on the fact that Jesus forgave his enemies as he hung on the cross and cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).

We know we are successfully forgiving someone when we unshackle our anger and bitterness. Joy returns to our lives.

We take a deep breath, release the offender to God’s care, then enjoy peace and thanksgiving.

We know we are receiving God’s grace to forgive someone when we feel ourselves moving “from resentment to gratitude,” as Henri Nouwen said.

Recently, my father had a birthday party surrounded by his large family.

With the help of eager grandchildren, he unwrapped a long red stick.

“Just what I wanted,” he exclaimed, “a backscratcher!”

His little granddaughter shouted, “Let me do it!” He gave it to her, and she scratched his back.

Then she said, “Somebody scratch my back, too!” A grandson leaped to his feet, and everyone spontaneously jumped up to join the others.

A circle formed with everyone laughing and scratching the back of the person in front. The party circulated around the room, knocking into lamps and singing songs with delight. Even the dogs joined in, barking and wagging their tails.

I think this story gives us a glimpse of heaven, the way God originally intended life on Earth.

We find healing when we allow others to scratch our back, and we scratch theirs. We relax and see the world anew with loving eyes. Our cups are filled to overflowing.

We know forgiveness is complete when we “find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything,” as Shakespeare said.

When we forgive others, we experience divine joy. “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving” (Ps 69:30).

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is RH222@sbcglobal.net.)

Local site Links: