Jesus is consistent in calling his disciples to forgive. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus asks the Heavenly Father to forgive “as we forgive” others. This becomes a rather informative phrase for those of us who are not quick to forgive others, or even consistent in who we forgive or what we forgive.

Do we forgive those closest to us more often than those on the margins of our acquaintance? Do we forgive the privileged more than the underprivileged? Do we forgive the child more readily than the adult? And what do we forgive — a debt? a tresspass? a sin? a minor slight? a major upheaval? These are not easy to answer, and may vary in our experience.

One easily engages in verbal barbs with a colleague over something rather ridiculous, without thought of forgiving them. Why? The same occurs in traffic when someone’s impulsive driving causes us frustration. Do we forgive then? And what of the mistakes that cost a spouse, a IMG_20150730_115706child, a loved one, an employee, an employer time or money or dignity? Do we forgive these?

“Forgive us… as we forgive…”

All sins, debts, and trespasses encroach on someone else’s life journey; they affect more than just the sinner, debtor, or trespasser. In some cases, the effect is enormous, in others light. The Lord’s prayer teaches us that our forgiveness of small misdeeds allows God and others to forgive our small misdeeds. Forgiveness of larger misdeeds allows God and others to forgive our large misdeeds. Notice that the prayer of forgiveness rises to God first with a covenantal caveat. Inasmuch as we are forgiven by God, so we must forgive others. For those of us baptized for the remission of all our sins — original and personal — we see in the Lord’s Prayer the need for continual conversion of heart and mind in a spirit in an attitude of forgiveness. Otherwise, our so-called salvation is no salvation at all and puts into question our relationship to God and his Christ.

The call to forgiveness is a call to reconciliation through love. We forgive because we love. Without active love, there is no possibility of forgiveness. Beyond this comes a catharsis borne of that love:  When we forgive, we release the burden of the misdeed weighing on our minds. We give ourselves the right and privilege to be free of its torment —  and pass the right and privilege on to others to also be free from the guilt and shame of the misdeed. May we all learn to forgive each other more readily.

Easter: A New Beginning

Photo taken 2015 of a Mosaic at The Athenaeum, Cincinnati, OH
The Risen Christ

The Resurrection of Jesus ought to bring overwhelming joy to those who claim Jesus Christ as savior. Jesus’ crucifixion — the epitome of human indignity — does not stop the God of Life. By overcoming Death, God through Jesus shows humankind the ultimate power and resilience of life and offers a more powerful alternative to Death in all of its manifestations.

God undermines all the myths and lies of Hell by tearing the proverbial door of Death off of its hinges. Jesus’ crucifixion becomes itself an act that paradoxically spotlight’s humanity’s inherent dignity in the face of utter indignity against it. In Scripture, Jesus’ lived humility, charity, suffering, and grace endure through the tortures and indignities he suffers. And in rising, Jesus shows his followers a new way, a new beginning, a renewed sense of dignity that they have always had.

Some of Jesus’ own disciples viewed his death as an unfair ending to a righteously lived life. It took an empty tomb and more than a few appearances to shift the disciples (followers) — women and men — into apostles (those sent forth). Our lives may not be anywhere near righteous, but if we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, the Resurrection graces us with the promise of regeneration of body and spirit. This promise teaches us that we are more than by-standers and more than followers. We are apostles, called to bring others to this life-giving, resurrected Jesus.

Sometimes, we focus only on the ending of a season in our lives, whatever that may be. Instead, we ought to shift our focus to the new beginning such an ending affords. The ending forces us to examine our lives, to scrutinize our behaviors and mindsets; the resurrection allows us to draw from within the courage to claim a new path, to draw a fresh breath, to erase the past and start over. It is truly what Baptism does sacramentally and symbolically, and is why Christians around the world welcome new members into the faith through baptism — at Easter, or at any time of year.

Isn’t that what is truly meant by the ancient Latin phrase Ite Missa Est? “Go, It’s the Dismissal.” We are dismissed to be no longer disciples only, but apostles proclaiming the Good News. The end of every worship service, every Mass, every solemn assembly, every season, is a new beginning.