Dear One and All,
Today’s Gospel should cause us to search our hearts. Forgiveness is a very wide issue. It is more than just forgiving others. It includes forgiving ourselves, and it may even include forgiving God because of some tragedy or disaster in our life, which we wrongly thought that God was the cause!
When we are ready to look in a mirror and give ourselves absolution, only then are we ready to go to God for forgiveness. Otherwise we could find ourselves asking God to do something that we ourselves are refusing to do.
We have all heard the phrase ‘burying the hatchet’, but there is a tendency to mark the spot, so that the hatchet can be dug up at short notice, when needed! Forgiveness does not exclude remembering the pain, or experiencing a twinge of anger at a moment of recall. It means that, at such times, we are willing to pray for those who have hurt us, so that the pain will go away. It is really an on-going process and, like any wound, it takes time to heal. Opening our hands and letting go, means that our hands are open to receive many wonderful blessings from God.
For the Christian, there is no way around forgiveness. We can justify and rationalise anything but, at the end
of the day, we have to forgive. ‘Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ This prayer of Jesus and of the Church does not give us much choice! It would seem that forgiving is a very high level of loving, because it costs us dearly. Money cannot buy it, but it can happen if we want it to, and if we allow the Spirit to melt our sometimes-hard hearts. Remember the response to the Psalm after the First Reading of last Sunday: ‘ If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts’.
I would like to conclude with a short reflection about this response. ‘ A hard heart can’t feel, can’t respond, can’t love. A hard heart can’t experience joy. A hard heart is a closed heart. A hard heart is a barren heart. A soft heart, on the other hand, is a blessing. A soft heart can receive and can respond. It can be saddened but it can also be deliriously happy. Softened by the rain of God’s grace, and warmed by the sun of his love, the human heart can be turned from a desert into a garden.’
It’s not over yet; you know that I love a good story, and I think that you do too…..check this one out….it certainly is food for thought for me and most probably for you too.
The Story of Abbot Anastasias
and Brother James
Once upon a time, there was a very holy Abbot called Anastasias who belonged to the Order of St.Anthony in the Desert, and he lived in the area of Mt.Sinai in Egypt. In fact, he was considered a saint by his fellow desert Monks. One day when a Monk by the name of Brother James sinned, and was told to leave the community, Anastasias got up and walked out with him, saying, ‘I too am a sinner.’ James, however, did not reform and fell very low. Years later, he came to visit Abbot Anastasias as he was saying his evening prayer. ‘Forgive me for interrupting your prayer and making you break your Monastic Rule,’ James said. ‘Don’t worry,’ Anastasias replied. ‘My Rule is to receive you with hospitality’.And he gave him food and lodgings for the night. Now Anastasias had an old copy of the Bible, which was worth quite a bit of money. Seeing the book, James took it
with him when he was leaving next morning.
When Anastasias realized that he had stolen the book, he didn’t follow him, fearing that he might only make him add the sin of perjury to that of theft. James went to a nearby merchant to sell the book, asking a high price. ‘Give me the book for a little while so that I can find out whether it’s worth that much’, the merchant said. He took it to Abbot Anastasias. Anastasias took one look at it and said, ‘Yes, this is a splendid book. In fact, it’s worth much more.’ The buyer came back and told the thief what Anastasias had said. He asked, ‘was that all he said? Did he make no other remarks?’ ‘No,’ said the merchant,’ he didn’t say another word.’
On hearing this, James was deeply moved, and said, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want to sell the book after all.’ And he hastened back to Anastasius, and, with tears in his eyes, gave him back the book and begged his forgiveness. Anastasias received him with the same kindness as before.
He simply said, ‘I forgive you. Keep the Book. Read a little from it each day, and pray to Christ who received sinners like us, and brought them back to God’s love and friendship. Now go in peace.’
His fellow Monks were surprised to see him wasting his time on someone like James, but he said, ‘Tell me, if your Religious Habit (Robe) is torn, will you throw it away? And they replied, ‘No, we will mend it and put it back on.’ Then he said, ‘If you take such care of your robe, will not God be merciful to one who bears his image?’
And the kindness of Anastasias paid off. James changed his life. He returned to the life of a Monk and became known for his goodness and holiness.
Anastasias placed kindness, hospitality and mercy towards fellow human beings above the practice of penance and the observance of his Monastic Rule. He modelled himself on Jesus. Jesus sat down and ate with sinners, which means he became their friend.
When a person combines true religion and deep humanity, you have a powerful combination. It’s like well-polished mahogany. Here you have true holiness.
You know when it is all said and done, the Scriptures have given us the deepest insight possible into the mystery of ‘forgiving’. I think that we can talk so much about the subject, yet remain distant from its reality. I think that the above story gives us plenty of food for thought, as well as the reflective questions which I posted on Tuesday night.
God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer. Fr.Kev
OUR FAMILY PRAYER TOGETHER
Various members of the family might
like to take a prayer each……
Leader: My brothers and sisters, with hearts free from anger and hatred let us humbly bring our petitions before the God of mercy.
1.That the Lord’s faithful Word will sustain our Holy Father, Pope Benedict,
the bishops, and all who minister to God’s people, let us pray to the Lord:
2.That the Lord’s guiding hand will direct our public servants
along the paths of justice and peace, let us pray to the Lord:
3.That the Lord’s mercy for all people will lead nations and families
to share the gift of mutual forgiveness and healing, let us pray to the Lord:
4.That the Lord’s salvation will speedily deliver the peoples of the world
from poverty, unemployment, starvation and disease, let us pray to the Lord:
5.That the Lord’s gift of the Eucharist will bind us together
in the new covenant of reconciliation, let us pray to the Lord:
6.That the Lord’s everlasting love will embrace
the lives of those who have died, especially members from our own family and people that we have known or heard about let us pray to the Lord:
7.That the many trouble spots in our world which are hemmed in by war, hatred, lack of food and water and freedom. Let us pray to the Lord.
8.That the many troubled people who are waiting to see if they are accepted into our country: may justice and understanding of their plight prevail at all times. Let us pray to the Lord.
9.We might take a little time to share some prayers for the needs of our world, the Christian community, our country, Australia, our locality and prayers that have been asked of us by other people……….(Time to share). You might like to conclude by taking each other’s hand and praying the Lord’s Prayer……
Leader: God rich in mercy, grant us what we need to live as your holy people. Let your loving-kindness make us compassionate as you are compassionate, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A FEW NOTICES….
Do keep an eye on the READINGS TAB of the Website. I have inserted a very interesting reflection about Adam and Eve. Also, very good information about the INSPIRE LIBRARY generated by Colin Lee.
In the FUNNIES SECTION, I have given some background to the fact and fiction of the little story about the Village of Finuge in County Kerry. By the way a new chapter will be posted next week…..the poor old Parish Priest goes to God!
Why not pass this website on to you friends who might be keen to have a little more nourishment from God’s Word…….