August 5, 2018

Forgiveness reflection based on Guy Gruters’ talk: During his talk, Guy recalled taking a knee in his cell as a POW and explained to us how he began to pray the rosary even though he couldn’t remember the mysteries. He only recalled that it would have been 150 Hail Mary’s and an Our Father after each set of 10 Hail Mary’s. But he prayed and most importantly he prayed that God would help him to forgive. I was so moved by the fact that he had forgotten the mysteries. Oddly enough (or more likely God inspired) that very day I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and I think I only remembered the first one correctly. It was very frustrating for me to not be able to remember the mysteries. How was I going to grow in holiness if I didn’t remember the mysteries and I didn’t properly reflect upon them? Then, as I listened to Guy speak, it struck me…I’m not the one in charge and I cannot be so prideful as to think that I am doing this on my own. I was being all about me as I prayed and not making room for God. In other words, I wasn’t letting go and letting God. So, God messed up my memory that day to highlight my need to be with Him in prayer and to learn to depend upon His power to overcome hardship and not depend upon my own pride-filled ego.

I was also moved when Guy spoke about not judging others. Only God knows what is going on in someone else’s heart, mind and soul. He talked about how each of us has been given our own gifts and talents from God, as well as our own free will to choose how to use those gifts. But he also spoke about how each of us is brought up in different situations with our own unique setbacks, hardships and troubles. All of this makes it impossible to truly know the journey someone else has traveled leading them to the actions (or inactions) they make. It made me think of that favorite prayer I often say: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” Finally, what I heard Guy say over and over again was that he didn’t give up on forgiving. Each day he chooses to place his life into the hands of God and through Him, who sacrificed everything for us sinners, Guy finds the strength to forgive others. It is a daily choice he makes, not a one and done scenario. The humility it takes to fight this fight each and every day struck me with great awe. It made me think of that scriptural passage: “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). So, in summary, I took away from Guy’s talk that the steps of forgiveness are:

  • Place it into the Hands of God. Only He can give us the strength to forgive.
    • Don’t try and do this via your own will, strength or pride.
  • Do not judge the other. Judgment is for God.
    • Acknowledging your own pain and sharing your story is not being judgmental.
  • Don’t give up praying for the grace to forgive!
    • If need be, reflect on how much God sacrificed for you even though you are in need of
      forgiveness yourself.

Thoughts from Jo Ann McLaughlin-Klemencic:
One of the most striking sentiments from Guy Gruters’ reflection for me was this: that if you have power over others, be careful not to abuse it. Power can easily corrupt those who have it, so watch how you exercise it. It reminded me of a Gospel passage from John 19. Pontius Pilate is trying to release Jesus, but the crowd yells that Jesus should be crucified because he made himself the Son of God. “Now when Pilate heard this statement, he became even more afraid, and went back into the praetorium and said to Jesus, ʽWhere are you from?ʼ Jesus did not answer him. So Pilate said to him, ʽDo you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you?ʼ Jesus answered, ʽYou would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from aboveʼ ” (John 19: 8-11).

What I find interesting in this passage is the mention of fear and power. Fear is certainly a motivator, but usually motivates us to make poor choices. Eventually Pilate’s fear of the situation leads him to wish to be rid of the whole situation, so he hands Jesus over to be crucified. He had the power to make a different choice, but his fear blinded how he could have used his power for good.

Fear and misunderstandings of perceived differences are at the root of many personal, historical, and present conflicts. I am wholly convinced that the suffering that we all experience because of choices motivated by fear and misunderstanding, including what Jesus experienced, is the result of sin.
Sometimes these are individual sins and choices, but more often than not, it is societal sin, the sin we all carry the burden of because of our fall from grace. We live in a broken world that we were never intended to be a part of where we daily feel the effects of sin. Guy’s story is just one of unfortunately millions and millions of examples of that.

So, how do we forgive those who have abused power? We follow the lead of Jesus. First, we pray. Hard. Allow Jesus’ words to be your simple and beautiful prayer: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). These may not come easy, so proceed to my second step. Second, we often need to give ourselves time. Third, we should talk to those we can trust. Forgiveness involves healing of self, a healing that may not be achieved without additional support. Fourth, seek out the Eucharist, the perfect gift intended to make us whole. Fifth, remember that in our humanness, our forgiving someone or something may not change the behaviors we see. That can be difficult and add time to the process. But our forgiveness need not be predicated on that change. A helpful gauge to know if you have forgiven a person or situation is if pain and hurt are not your first thoughts regarding these. Then base your actions accordingly, repeating above actions if necessary and also guarding your future interactions.
This process is not a simple one, and my thoughts are not complete or foolproof by any means. They are a start, and any process rooted in the Lord is a good place to start.

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