Very timely pondering from my retreat which took place on April 15 through the 17 that truly needs to be shared. May it bring healing to many.
Forgiveness and Family Reconciliation
[Adapted and reorganized from personal notes from a talk given by Fr. Peter Mary on 16 April 2016 as part of a retreat given at the El Carmelo Retreat House in Redlands, California.]
Do I have someone I need to forgive? Do I need to forgive myself?
How do I begin the process of forgiveness?
We are obligated to be merciful because God was merciful to us first.
Repay God’s mercy to us by being merciful to others.
The Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:5-15) is explicit. Our forgiveness from the Father is conditioned upon our forgiveness of others.
St. Teresa of Avila’s Way of Perfection (chap. 36).
What Forgiveness Is:
Forgiveness is act of will and intellect.
Forgiveness is a process which takes time and practice. That’s why it seems hard.
Forgiveness is a free gift.
It does not depend upon the actions or response of the offender.
It is distinct from reconciliation, a further step, which includes the offender.
What Forgiveness Is Not:
Forgiveness is separate from any need to challenge the offender’s destructive behavior.
Forgiveness does not guarantee we forget.
Forgiveness does not remove the pain.
Fruits of Forgiveness:
Forgiving leads to joyful living and peace.
Not forgiving leads to other problems.
It can lead to loneliness and isolation due to an inability to trust others.
It can destroy clear thinking.
It can destroy physical and mental health. The body and mind are connected.
Recognizing Who to forgive:
Consider the people within your own family.
Consider the people you need to forgive.
Consider the people who annoy you.
It is not possible to completely avoid people who annoy us. Trying to ignore them leads to loneliness and isolation.
We need to transform the annoyances.
Principles for Practicing Forgiveness:
Recognize you could be wrong or have misunderstood.
Take into account the difficulties the offender might have had in their life.
Weak offenders may be incapable of forgiving. Forgiveness does not depend upon the offender reciprocating.
Be careful not to limit forgiveness by placing conditions.
Recall how Jesus embraced the pain of his passion and the cross.
Good can come out of evil especially if we imitate the cross. We need to transform evil. (purification of memories is dealt by St John of the Cross in the Ascent.)
Forgive the offender immediately.
Depend upon God’s love to empower your forgiveness.
Nine Practices to Develop Forgiveness:
1. Pray for those you need to forgive.
2. Pray for your ability to forgive.
3. Receive regular confession in gratitude for God’s mercy on you.
4. Receive regular reception of the Eucharist for God’s mercy to be present within you.
5. Become more aware of a tendency to see only the bad in people and strive to see the good.
6. Imagine yourself into the other person’s situation and the pain and hurt they may have felt.
7. Avoid unreasonable expectations of yourself and others.
8. Be honest about yourself that you could be wrong.
9. Examine your conscience to recognize progress.