Lent 2011

 

 

Part II

 

C. Our Forgiveness of Each Other
D. Our Forgiveness of Ourselves

(Compiled by Michael T. Sullivan, MD)

 

God the Father,

Our Lord Jesus Christ

and

Our Lady of Emmitsburg

speak on

 

FORGIVENESS

"Forgive, forget--forever!"

(Our Lady of Emmitsburg, Sept. 11, 2007)

 

Forgiveness is a complex dynamic.  The Catholic Dictionary defines "forgiveness" as pardon or remission of an offense.  The Catholic Church teaches that sins forgiven are actually removed from the soul (Jn 20:23), not merely covered over by the merits of Christ.  Only God can forgive sins, since He alone can restore sanctifying grace to a person who has sinned gravely and thereby lost the state of grace.  God forgives sins to the truly repentant sinner either immediately through an act of perfect contrition or mediately through a Sacrament.  The Sacraments directed to the forgiveness of sins are primarily Baptism, Reconciliation and secondarily, under certain conditions, the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and even Holy Eucharist for some venial sins.

 

However, in this dynamic process there needs be a conviction of guilt by the conscience of the sinner through the workings of the Holy Spirit, or by some legitimate governing entity, individual or group.  Contrition or sorrow for sin is needed; thus, forgiveness cannot occur in the absence of a repentant sinner.  There then needs to be an openness to reconciliation with the one injured and a willingness to make reparation and atonement for the offense.  This also involves the necessity to avoid the sin and occasions of sin in the future---a firm purpose of amendment.  Forgiveness may take the form of God's forgiveness of man, man's forgiveness of himself, and man's forgiveness of another. This process need be accomplished without causing any lasting shame, guilt or despair.

 

A.  Forgiveness:  An Overview

B.  God's Forgiveness of Us

C.  Our Forgiveness of Each Other

D.  Our Forgiveness of Ourselves

E.  Contrition and the Purpose of Amendment

F.   Reconciliation, Reparation and Atonement

G.  Closing

 

 

C.  Our Forgiveness of Each Other

 

"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"

(Lk 23:34)

 

Certainly, a most perfect prayer would be one given by Our Lord Himself addressed to His Heavenly Father.  For centuries, all Christianity has been pleading to “Our Father” to forgive us, but we ourselves have placed a condition on that forgiveness.  We have continually asked Him to forgive us AS we forgive others.  In other words, if we do not or cannot forgive others, we have certainly jeopardized our access to the forgiveness of the Father Whom we have continually offended.  Our Lord, in His Lessons to the world through Gianna Sullivan, shares this critical aspect of forgiveness:

 

"The prayer of the 'Our Father' is My prayer which was taught to all, so that all may share in His grace of perfection….It is the most beautiful prayer and the purest, the ultimate prayer of Divine protection….:

 

'Forgive us our trespasses’:  Forgive our selfishness and pride against Your beloved ones.  Forgive us, for we have offended your honor.

 

'As we forgive those who trespass against us’:  For we pray in your Name for reconciliation with our brothers who have offended our honor.  (JOM, Vol II, Lesson #28, Dec. 22, 1989)

 

"If My people will not forgive their fellow brothers and themselves, is that not passing judgment?….When you do not forgive your brothers, you are judging them according to your standards.  I tell you, you cannot love Me and hate your brothers!  You cannot judge others without first judging Me!…If you wish to be glorified in Me, you  must reconcile and forgive…..Do you actually think you can have everlasting life without forgiveness?  Allow me to destroy your pride so that you can live in freedom and happiness by forgiving.  Stop thinking you are far better than your fellow brothers or that it is belittling to forgive."  (JOM, Vol I, #65, June 26, 1989)

 

Certainly all of us, at one time or another, have been offended and slandered by others.  This often leads to judgment and condemnation of the ones offending us, and even worse, at times to revenge and retaliation.  However, as Our Lord explains, it is through forgiveness brought about by God's goodness and Love within our hearts that we can protect ourselves from the harsh judgment of God:

 

"Do not complain of offenses and slanderous words made against you.  Have mercy on your enemies and forgive them with charity, instead of seeking support from others in a rebuttal against them.  Deny the evil one's venom of prestige, power and pride which manipulates and becomes the center of your life.  Instead, place Me at the center with simpleness, goodness and love."  (JOM, Vol III, #4. May 21, 1990)    "Forgive others.  What you see on the surface may not be the truth behind their incentives.  Know what you see is not what My Father sees.  If you do not judge others for what they do to you, then God's goodness can only dwell in your heart with forgiveness and Mercy.  There cannot be harmful judgment against you because it cannot exist."  (JOM, Vol III, #15, Sept. 30, 1990)

 

 

 

The Role of Prayer in Forgiveness

 

"And he shall pray for him before the Lord,

and he shall have forgiveness

for everything in doing of which he has sinned. "

(Lev 5:25-26)

 

Our ability to forgive others is dependent on God's grace.  Remember, in prior cultures and civilizations, the code of morality was based on "an eye for an eye."  This grace can be enhanced and its fruits more effective if it is accompanied by sincere prayer.  Our Lady of Emmitsburg shares with us the value of our prayer:

 

"If you are steadfast in faith, Jesus will lovingly protect you in times of hardships with His cloak of Mercy….He is looking for those who will plead for Mercy and forgiveness for all people….Pray for Mercy and desire Love and forgiveness for all people."  (Public OLOE, Aug. 31, 1995)

 

"Pray for those people in your lives for whom you have not cared or who have been burdensome for you because they have caused obstacles and challenges in your lives….This will allow you to be able to both forgive and to love those in your present lives who cause obstacles and who do not care for you and what you are doing in your own lives."  (Private OLOE, Nov. 2, 2003)

 

"Pray for the way that people, especially in this country (USA), have chosen to be leaders who abuse and misuse the graces of God.  As you meet them you can pray for them, and you can ask God for their forgiveness and offer atonement on their behalf."  (Private OLOE, Dec. 21, 2003)

 

Family Prayer and Forgiveness

 

"Those, who pray together in the family as partners of love,

 will march triumphantly into the Era of Peace."

(Our Lady of Emmitsburg, March 9, 2000)

 

At nearly all of Our Lady's apparition sites throughout the world over many centuries, she has emphasized the importance of prayer, and especially prayer within the family and for the family.  It seems that often the greatest need for forgiveness and reconciliation lies within the bounds of both the immediate and extended family members.  As the Mother of Jesus in the Holy Family and our Mother too, Our Lady of Emmitsburg reinforces the necessity of prayer: 

 

"Pray within your families.  Unity, compassion and forgiveness are fruits from prayer in the family, and I have told you that you cannot have a pure heart unless you forgive….Do not look for revenge on others, but practice Mercy.  Mercy is the missing link to loving."  (Private OLOE, June 16, 1994)  "So many families do not pray; but even in your differences you always seem to come back to the Truth in prayer, united in love, willing to try again and to move forward.  Life as you know it will always have obstacles.  You will have weaknesses.  The greatest gift of love you can give is one of acceptance and forgiveness.  Remember, no love--humanly speaking--will ever surpass the love of the family."  (Private OLOE, May 12, 2008)  "Live as if today is your last day.  Love!  Be genuinely sorry and forgiving.  Spouses, tell each other how much you love the other….Live as if it is the last day.  If you do this each day, you will be renewed.  No one knows the last day, but what if the last day arrived and you failed to mention your love?  If someone feels unworthy and wounded by your lack of response, that person in his/her very soul suffers.  Release that soul into the Peace of the Triune God….God came to give that all might live--fully!…Be well-rounded and balanced.  Have fun, pray, give, receive, study, read and physically do all that you can to be active and to be a servant of God.  Life involves balance; and that is the way that leads you to encapsulating the Truth, living it and following through."  (Private OLOE, July 13, 2009)

 

"If people cannot love and respect their children, family members and own spouses, how can they respect any aspect of life, their neighbors and other people of different cultures.  If respect for life and love of family members are neglected, it is not possible to love or respect anyone.  This represents a threat to your very existence.  If people cannot preserve the dignity of life, then life will cease to exist."  (Public OLOE, June 12, 1997)

 

For many, the missing ingredient seems to be Love, and sometimes that even means "tough love."  Our Lady of Emmitsburg reminds all of us that we share the guilt in this deficiency of genuine, unconditional Love; and that Love may even take us to the points of suffering and death in order to bring about the desired and necessary amends in both ourselves and others:

 

"The most important thing I see and wish to address stems from the lack of love.  So many people in this world either do not know love, have not received love, or do not know how to give love.  Without love, you will die!  Every member of your family, especially those close to you, deserves to know what true love is.  If that is not possible, then how can love disseminate across the world?"  (Private OLOE, May 2, 2007)   

 

"You are all guilty of not fulfilling this need.  However, God in His graciousness breathed, lived and survived every dart of poison against the virtue of Love.  On the surface, you can say that you love others; but within your family, if you cannot truly love, then the value of God's Word in you can only reach out and disseminate so far.  It must be genuine!  It must not come from your agenda or your criteria.  It must be unconditional!  You must be willing to die for those for whom you desire least in order to make new amends."  (Private OLOE, May 2, 2007)

 

For the last several years, Our Lady of Emmitsburg has been speaking about the new beginning and the new tomorrow.  This would certainly lead one to believe that we can expect a change--not the end of the world, but rather an "end of the era" with something new and different and holy to follow:

 

"It is the new beginning, and we as one in the community are together.  I am with you, My Son is with you ….You must forget about the past.  You must forgive in the present moment, and you must not think of the future to come…."  (Public OLOE, Nov. 1, 2002)

 

"There is a need to be prudent and wise and to look in prayer and silence with all simplicity and forgiveness of neighbor toward what the new world, the new tomorrow, will bring.  This new era of Christ is one in which this forgiveness, this love, this gentleness and kindness will flourish."  (Public OLOE, Jan 12, 2003)

 

It is quite apparent as we look at any of the media outlets in the world that we are in a time of turmoil and tribulation, a time when it would be quite easy to lose focus and to build up resentment and bitterness.  This makes it all the more important and necessary to be on guard and to put on the armor of God in order not to miss that new tomorrow.  Our Lady of Emmitsburg summarizes some of the pitfalls and the remedies for surviving this turbulent time:

 

"It is so necessary to be all-forgiving and all-loving of one another.  Without this people can harbor resentment and bitterness.  When there are anger, the passion of envy, jealousy and hatred, it is hard to forgive….Throughout history, bitterness and anger have intensified the tensions which have resulted in world wars in many countries across the continents."  (Public OLOE, Mar. 13, 2003)

 

"This is the time of turmoil and tribulation; a time not to lose focus but to move valiantly ahead; and a time to prepare hearts, to remove all bitterness, anger and hatred, to live with compassion and forgiveness, to be all-giving, and to realize what true humility is.  Now there is a new beginning coming."  (Private OLOE, Mar. 17, 2003)

 

"Please know that the most important thing you can do is to love one another, to forgive one another, and not to be duped in your thinking process as to who should arrive at a greater place….Put away all rash thoughts and judgments; and put on the armor of Love, humility and graciousness." (Public OLOE, Mar. 27, 2005)

 

"Forgive with all your heart.  Try with all your heart, because no one is perfect. Only God is perfect.  Strive to be like Him, meek and humble of heart….But in the process of growth there could be times when someone is angry with you for no reason at all….If you are angry back, what good will that do?  Perhaps you need only to understand, with a loving heart, that the person is created by God and is experiencing difficulty.  Forgive, and at the proper time that person will ask your forgiveness, if you pray for them.  Remember:  Do not let the sun go down on arguments for you do not know when your day of calling to meet God face to face will be.  (Eph 4:26)  Make amends and ask forgiveness so there is healing, and then bring your gifts to the altar."  (Private OLOE, June 7, 2008)

 

"Be angry but do not sin;

do not let the sun set on your anger,

and do not leave room for the devil. " 

(Eph 4:26)

 

 

Forgiveness of our Persecutors and Enemies

 

"Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father." 

(Mt 5:44)

 

It has always been a topic of amazement that Our Lord on the Cross could not only forgive and die for all those who had sinned and those who were sinning against Him, but also for all those who would continue to sin until the end of time.  It seems almost humanly impossible to forgive those who you know are going to continue to hurt you.  However, Our Lady of Emmitsburg points out that it is this forgiveness of our persecutors and enemies that draws us closer to Our Lord and gives Him great glory: 

 

"For those who harm you, you must forgive as Christ forgives; because unless you forgive, my Son cannot forgive you.  The measure you give is the measure you receive."  (Private OLOE, Sept 11, 2005)  "Forgive, forget--forever!"  (Private OLOE, Sept. 11, 2007)

 

"Ponder my Son's words and live them so fully in your lives that you can love and forgive both your neighbors and your enemies as if they were to be the ones to rescue you during your times of greatest difficulty and suffering, suffering even unto death."  (Public OLOE, Jan. 1, 2004)

 

"Even your enemies, they too are dear to God, for God always hopes for change and looks for reconciliation with the hope for a new tomorrow." (Private OLOE, Jan. 4, 2004)

 

Our Lady of Emmitsburg also warns us that there will be times that those who harm us may not be open to our forgiveness, often because they do not know what they are doing or not doing.  She even offers her own prayers for God's Mercy on our enemies and persecutors, leaving Justice to God alone:

 

"These are times when there is tremendous division….Often those who know they have done wrong, even if you reach out to them, may in their embarrassment choose not to acknowledge or to forgive.  But the very act of your reaching out to them means more to God the Father than did their sin itself."  (Private OLOE, Mar. 8, 2004)

 

"Pray and forgive your persecutors.  See, my arms are open as I plead on their behalf to God the Father to intervene, not only for you but for those who strive to harm you; for they do not know what they do."  (Public OLOE, Aug. 7, 2005)

 

"The greatest gift you have, with which you have been graced from above by God the Father, is that you have learned when someone has harmed you, you go to the Foot of the Cross and you see my arms outstretched before God the Father imploring His Mercy; and you too ask for their forgiveness, 'For they do not know what they do.'…But because there are so much emotion, vanity and other human elements involved, many people forget to look to the Truth of the Cross.  They forget to surrender and abandon themselves to God, opening even their hearts that have been pierced by a sword to say, 'Bless them, Father, and forgive them, for they do not know what they do.' …This is the key to changing everything….You pray for their forgiveness, and you pray at the Foot of the Cross." {Lk 23: 34}  (Private OLOE, Aug. 27, 2005)  "For even my Son, Who suffered tremendously the worst of persecutions, could say, 'Forgive them, Father, for they do not know what they do.'  Your souls must be there for God alone; and no matter what happens within your own very lives, ultimately you must forgive.  You must defend the Truth, for Justice must meet face to face with God's Mercy where holiness and faith abound in eternal glory.  So you must defend the Truth, but you must forgive also!"  (Private OLOE, Feb. 15, 2007)

 

"Walk with me now and live the pain as a mother and as a father who witnesses their son treated as a criminal, known to be wicked, a liar, a deceitful prophet in his own right--yes, a criminal, but totally innocent, beaten and naked, humiliated and mocked.  Walk with me, and there you will be held, comforted and protected within my most Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart….Yet my Son cried out, 'Father forgive them, for they do not know what they do.'  You must also forgive, for the Truth will always surface."  (Private OLOE, Apr. 1. 2007)

 

"My Son offered the ultimate act of Love.  In all His suffering, in all His humiliation, and through all His pain, He could forgive.  You also are invited and asked to forgive.  What good would any of your actions be if you cannot love and forgive?"  (Public OLOE, May 6, 2007)

 

From the vantage point where each of us sits looking out at the world, it also seems almost humanly impossible to bring about significant change.  And that is true!  However, it is not true for God.  Our Lady of Emmitsburg challenges us to first desire to forgive, to heal, to love, and then to allow God to do His work through each of us:

 

"There is so much hatred and jealousy and greed in this world today.  If people do not begin to love and ask God to breathe into them the desire to forgive, to heal their hearts and to replace hatred with love, the world will only continue to intensify in destroying itself."  (Private OLOE, Feb. 11, 2009)

 

"God can work all impossible things into something miraculous, and He will use you even though you see so much sorrow around you.  You may not understand it, but He is there; and you can help heal the world by a simple act of forgiveness and the extension of a hand of Love.  Especially after someone has hurt you and they have been punished by God--for God will punish them--they will feel shame; and so you will need to extend love."  (Private OLOE, Feb. 4, 2009)

 

Our Lord too stresses the necessity of our desire and willingness to forgive before He can do what only God can do:

 

"It is your choice.  It is you who must have the desire and willingness to forgive and do so.  I cannot forgive you unless you allow Me.  You must forgive your brothers and yourselves before I am able to forgive you."  (JOM, Vol I, Lesson #65, June 26, 1989)

 

Throughout the discussions of both Our Lord and Our Lady of Emmitsburg, there is a very apparent connection between our ability to be forgiven by God and to forgive others, and our ability to forgive our very own selves.  This aspect of forgiveness of self is the one which seems least understood and often forgotten or at least diluted in its importance.  Both Our Lady of Emmitsburg and Our Lord help us to better understand this connection:

 

"How you judge others indicates how you will judge yourself when you go before the throne of God.  If you do not forgive and forget the offenses of others, you will not be able to forgive or forget your own offenses.  Hence, you will not be able to allow God to be merciful to you.  God wants to forgive and forget your errors…. "(Public OLOE, Feb. 5, 1998)

 

"Many people are Christian in deed only.  Many of them are even so-called ‘Catholics.’  But the time will come, and I your Mother pray for them, when they will know the Truth.  I pray that they will be able to accept the Truth in their hearts and be merciful to themselves and rise to a new level.  For God forgives those who can forgive themselves…"  (Private OLOE, June 8, 2002)

 

"Forgive all those who have hurt you.  Forgive them as God has forgiven you.  If you cannot forgive those who have hurt you, then it will be most difficult for you to forgive yourself when you meet your Creator face to face.  Speak up for the Truth.  Defend justice.  For justice and peace shall meet, and you do not want to be held accountable for the sin of omission."  (Public OLOE, Mar. 11, 2007)

 

"There are so many of My people who have so much difficulty forgiving their brothers and sisters.  There are many who are filled with so much anger that they cannot forgive.  To forgive, My people must have the desire and the willingness.  Those who do not forgive their brothers cannot forgive themselves....If you cannot forgive yourselves, how can I forgive you.  If you cannot forgive your brothers, how can you say you love your Lord God with all your heart?"   (JOM, Vol I, #65, June 26, 1989)

 

 

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being,

with all your strength, and with all your mind,

and your neighbor as yourself."

(Lk 10:27)

 

 

 

D.  Our Forgiveness of Ourselves

 

Who can say,

"I have made my heart clean,

I am cleansed of my sin"?

(Proverbs 20:9)

 

Free will is a gift from God.  The Catholic Dictionary defines "free will" as the power of the will to determine itself and to act of itself, without compulsion from within or coercion from without.   Man can use that free will to give great glory to God, to gravely offend God, or to do anything between those extremes.  Our Lord in His Lessons describes what can happen when we put that free will to use: 

 

"Since man is free, he has the freedom of choice at all moments to select good or evil.  Once sin has been committed in vain, and if I then dwell in you, My Spirit will cause conflict with the evil until reconciliation has commenced!  That sin will continuously stain the soul until you allow forgiveness both from Me and yourself!  Remember, I cannot forgive you if you hold bound your sin by not forgiving yourself.  The conflict and separation of your inner being will exist until you allow My goodness to prevail….When you sin, allow My Spirit to truthfully guide you to honest reconciliation; and your soul will be nourished.  Once absolution of your sin is completed, you become virginal in purity."  (JOM, Vol II, #12, Oct. 18, 1989)

 

"If you can forgive and love yourself, then My Father can forgive and love you because you allow Him!  If you love yourself in purity, then your own judgment against yourself can only be a judgment in purity!  That judgment results in one of favor for you, not against you.  Seek Him, for He will guide you in purity."  (JOM, Vol III, #15, Sept. 30, 1990)

 

"Forgive yourself so I can forgive you.  Do not harbor negative condemnations against yourself.  Love yourself; be merciful to your own self; be compassionate.  If you cannot forgive without expectations, you cannot have a pure heart.  Mercy is related to forgiveness….Now I need to continue on reconciliation, because in order for Me to shed My Mercy, you must reconcile.  Use the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Sin will continuously stain the soul until you allow forgiveness from Me and yourself.  I cannot forgive you, if you hold bound your sin by not forgiving yourself."  (JOM, Vol IV, #92, Sept. 15, 1992)   "I call all of mankind to restore components of love, mercy, compassion, respect, dignity and honesty.  (JOM, Vol IV, #7, Nov. 3, 1991)  "There is nothing that God will not forgive in His merciful Love when a repentant heart asks for His Mercy and forgives himself."  (JOM, Vol V, #19, Sept. 12, 1995)

 

In addressing that purity of heart that comes with genuine forgiveness of self, Our Lady of Emmitsburg reaffirms that through God's forgiving grace, He can raise us to a higher level than that if even we had not sinned.  Amazing!

 

"God makes the truth of your sinfulness known because He loves you and desires you to come to Him.  But you must have mercy on yourself and forgive yourself so that God can forgive you and make you whole in His Love….You cannot have a pure heart unless you forgive, including your very self."  (Public OLOE, Apr. 20, 1995)

 

"Oftentimes you are misled.  Many times you fail, and many times you fall privy to sin; but in God's loving way and forgiving grace, when you go before Him and give all of who you are, and you forgive yourself, then He raises you to a different level--like that of an ambassador or king in a king's court."  (Private OLOE, Nov. 13, 2007)

 

Our Lord then links the power of His Love and forgiveness to the Peace and protection which accompany them as we go forward, both gentle on ourselves and growing in His Love:

 

"I am so happy when you allow Me to fill you with My Peace and My Love.  My Love is a rejoicing one, and all human guilt dissipates in it.  My Love bears fruit and results in no punishment.  I only teach My people because I love them, and I so much desire them to be free in their lives….Be gentle on yourselves and keep surrendering.  I will grace you and protect you as you grow in Love."   (JOM, Vol IV, #89. Sept. 15, 1992)

 

 

"Peace I leave with you; My Peace I give to you.

Not as the world gives do I give it to you."

(Jn 14:27)

 

End of Forgiveness, Part 2