Saturday, March 14, 2015

Be human and forgive for a true Lenten experience

Forgiveness is a critical part of our spirituality which we are not able to control and use properly. The reason for this is that we are filled with expectations of what we want from various people around us. The closer people are, the more are our expectations. We also give to others expecting something in return. Lent cannot be a time when we lent ourselves to get something in return. It is a process of self-examination and self-cleansing whereby we let go of our expectations and are willing to forgive seventy-seven times or seventy times seven, meaning as many times as needed, almost till our expectations are extinguished.

In St. Matthew 18:21-22 Peter wants to know the rule to be followed. Jesus gives him the sense to be undertaken. Lent for us becomes a 50 day routine where we would like to fulfill certain prayer timings, diet restrictions and feel we have fulfilled something by doing this. Seldom do we realize and are willing to accept that lent is a big teacher of how we should conduct ourselves not just for 50 days but the rest of our lives. Peter wanted to be absolved and wanted to know that he was doing the right thing. Jesus puts up a new challenge in front of him and reminds him of the journey he has to undertake in all probability till death.

Forgiveness has to come from top to bottom and cannot be expected bottom to top. The one who wants authority, position and a place of honour has to go through the process of forgiving wholeheartedly and continually. So much that forgiveness will become part of one’s life and a natural reaction to what someone does to us. We are always trying to teach a lesson to someone and forget that lent is a time to teach ourselves first. We are not teachers who are supposed to punish and change someone but learners who are supposed to forgive and change ourselves. Perhaps what Jesus said to Peter is very important considering Peter was going to take up leadership in the church. This leadership according to Jesus could not be taken forward with rules but had to break the rules!

In today’s life forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for the clergy and laity alike. We simple refuse to forgive, and behave with others keeping something in mind well into the lent and well after it. Confessions are often filled with the disability to forgive and the final acceptance that “after all I am a human being!” Jesus becoming human for the sake of humanity shows us what a human being is capable of doing. Even as Jesus was human and divine at the same time, he suffered on the cross and felt the pain. He did not use his divinity to escape from or move beyond the pain. The “after all I am a human being” comment does not give us an excuse but rather puts a responsibility on us. Jesus reminding Peter is Jesus reminding us today that if we would like to develop, move forward and take over leadership roles, we have to claim the fact that we are humans and we are capable of forgiving instead of saying after all I (we) am a human being!

This lent it would be meaningful to try and write to people, talk to them over the phone, meet them, or even do something symbolic to suggest to them that we are indeed sorry for anything that we have knowingly or unknowingly done to them and reach out to those who are trying to say sorry to us and tell them that we forgive them for whatever misunderstanding has happened. This is not an act of meekness but an act of courage where we are willing to accept the power of humanity reignited in us by Christ Jesus. Jesus answers Peter and Jesus answers our lent today by telling us to forget and forgive. We are human and we are capable of forgiving. Amen.

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