Sunday, October 10, 2010

Because I Need To Be Forgiven and Forgiving

One beautiful aspect of the Catholic Christian faith is that as we age, we begin to experience it from different perspectives and understand why it makes so much sense. Maybe this is the beginning of Wisdom.

This morning, I was blessed with an epiphany during Mass, thanks to my pastor's homily on Jesus' encounter in a village, where he healed 10 lepers. Luke tells us:

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, "Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?" Then he said to him, "Stand up and go; your faith has saved you."

 To be a leper in the first century was to be an outcast, a marginalized person who by law could not come near other humans, our pastor said. To be a Samaritan among the Jewish community was to be reviled. To be a Samaritan leper: that was almost like being inhuman. "We're all spiritual lepers," our pastor told us. That much, I figured, I understood.

Then our pastor said something I'd never contemplated. The Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we might be able to forgive our brothers and sisters. I know I need Reconciliation to repent for my own sins. And I know we Christians must forgive others, even if we think the person who has harmed us is "undeserving" in the eyes of the world.

But never had I understood how the two are intertwined. Without our willingness to humble ourselves and beg for God's forgiveness, how can we hope to forgive another? Indeed, unless I acknowledge my own sinfulness, my forgiving someone of their sins is an empty gesture, a kind of spiritual narcissism.

This afternoon I found a beautiful reflection on the power of Reconciliation by Fr. Thomas Ryan, CSP, who directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations,

The reconciliation with God and with one another is not allowed to stay in an invisible, “spiritual” or mental realm. Rather, it leads to other real, on-the-ground reconciliations which repair the breeches caused by sin. This is necessary because, while the wrong-doing is forgiven, its concrete effects remain. Thus, through this process, the forgiven offender is reconciled in his/her innermost being where a sense of honesty, integrity, and innermost truth is regained. One is reconciled with others whom one has in some way offended and wounded. One is reconciled with the Church. One is reconciled with all creation.

Today I found yet another reason why I am Catholic.