Monday, March 18, 2019

Forgiveness is good for the Soul part 2

"God's mercy is greater than our sins.  There is an awareness of sin that does not lead to God but to self-pre-occupation.  Our temptation is to be so impressed by our sins and failings and so overwhelmed by our lack of generosity that we get stuck in a paralyzing guilt.  It is the guilt that says: "I am too sinful to deserve God's mercy." It is the guilt that leads to introspection instead of directing our eyes to God.  It is the guilt that has become an idol and therefore a form of pride.  Lent is the time to break down this idol and to direct our attention to our loving Lord.  The questions is:  "Are we like Judas, who was so overcome by his sin that he could not believe in God's mercy any longer and hanged himself, or are we like Peter who returned to his Lord with repentance and cried bitterly for his sins?"  The season of Lent, during which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance, helps us in a special way to cry out for God's mercy."  (Henri J.M. Nouwen)

When we have a God of mercy we have a loving God.  Conversely, if we do not  have a God of mercy, or worse still we see ourselves as not needing a God of mercy, what kind of hell have we placed ourselves in and then blamed others and/or God?

 It's been a practice of mine for many years  when I celebrate confession with penitents  I ask the question,  "have you forgiven yourself? "  the vast majority of people say, no.   And so, I repeat the question, "have you forgiven yourself?"  I tell them to say their name,  (Bobo, Mimi, Lulu)  and say I forgive you.   They tell me they don’t mean it so, why should they say it.  And my response is to say it anyway.  I ask them "do you love yourself?"  So, I tell them to say their name,  (Bobo, Mimi, Lulu)  and say I love you.    They must put part and parcel of self affirmation and the penance I give them is to say I love you to themselves at least 10 times a day, and to say I forgive you  to themselves at least 10 times a day as, well.   Say it in the morning when you first arise or on your way to work/school and then again before bed or on your way home. I forgive you, I love you, I release shame.

We don’t think our way out of acting, we act our way into a new way of thinking.  It is a lifelong action.   The way we forgive ourselves is the way we allow God to forgive us and the way we love ourselves is the way we allow God to love us.  We grow that subversive action of self love and forgiveness and enjoy the love and forgiveness of our Prodigal Father.   Please love yourself enough to give yourself this gift of forgiveness.

And again,  it is helpful to write, not type, a letter of understanding and forgiveness to yourself for the actions of the past.  Do this as many times as needed. This is not about excusing, but understanding.  Then burn it.  Let us use the season of Lent to deal with guilt and give ourselves the gift of forgiveness and freedom.

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