Lord, Help Us Drop the Stones
Hi, Dear Friends in Christ,
Last Monday was the Feast of St. Maria Goretti. A word that should be synonymous with her is forgiveness. When St. Maria Goretti was 12 years old, an 18-year-old farmhand named Allesandro tried to rape her. She said to him, “No, God does not want it, it is a sin.” He finally became so outraged that he stabbed her 11 times. It was later found out that he had attempted to rape her several times before, but she always resisted. St. Maria lived another day and during those 24 hours, she forgave her murderer. He was sentenced to prison and was unrepentant until he had a dream where Maria brought him white lilies and they burned in his hand. After that, he changed dramatically. Twenty-seven years later when he was released, the first thing he did was ask St. Maria Goretti’s mom for forgiveness. Her mother stated, “If my daughter can forgive you, then so can I.” On June 24, 1950, Maria was declared a saint and Alessandro was part of the crowd at St. Peter’s celebrating her canonization. He later became a lay brother of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he lived in a monastery and worked as a receptionist and gardener until his death.
Forgiveness is often very hard to give but what we often don’t realize is that NOT forgiving causes us more pain. I think we have to remember a few things.
Forgiveness is acknowledging the other person’s transgressions and releasing them from their debt to us, remembering that we ourselves are sinners.
It does not justify what happened to us.
It does not condone their behavior.
It does not mean that we forget it ever happened and we allow them to hurt us again.
As a Christian, forgiveness is not an option.
Forgiveness means that we let go of the hurt, bitterness, vengeful feelings, and resentment.
“It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense, but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” CCC 2843
It means that we call upon God’s ocean of mercy for our healing, for our brothers and sisters who hurt us, and for the whole world.
It means that we practice God’s mercy in word, deed, and prayer. These are Jesus’ words to St. Faustina in #742 of her Diary.
“By offering mercy for the sin of another, we become free of the effects of their sin. Mercy is a way for God to remove this hurt from our lives and free us to encounter His mercy all the more by the forgiveness of our own sins for which we could never deserve on our own effort.” https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/2020/03/02/forgiving-others-and-being-forgiven-2/
Jesus clearly instructs us in Matthew, 18: 21-22, that we need to forgive our brothers and sisters 70 x 7 times. In Scripture, the number 7 denotes totality and completeness, therefore we must be willing to forgive others without limit. (CCC 982, 2227,2845)
Jesus takes us one step further in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This coincides with what He told St. Faustina in Diary #742. I believe it helps to remember that we are all in the same “boat.” If you can imagine all people in this grand boat rowing across the often choppy waters of life to Paradise- Heaven, then you may feel more inclined to wish everyone well, even those who have hurt you because we are only as strong as our weakest link. As followers of Christ, we should want to pray for God’s blessings upon all.
Let us not forget that the forgiveness of our sins depends on our desire to forgive those who have offended us. In Matthew 6: 14-15, Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
CCC 2840-2845 http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_PAB.HTM
Let’s imagine that every time someone hurts us and we are not able to truly forgive them, a stone is placed in our backpacks that we always have to carry. Sometimes, the stones are little from everyday annoyances. Other times they are quite large and over time they accumulate until we can barely walk. In fact, we have held on to so many grudges (often unknowingly) that we now have two bags in our hands to carry as well. Finally, we cry out to Jesus for help and He tenderly reaches out His arms, but we cannot walk and our arms are weighed down. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” As long as we are willing to forgive with humility, Jesus will gently remove the backpack from our back and take the bags of stones from our hands. For a moment in time, He allows us to see all the people that hurt us with God’s Vision. We realize that they were hurting and we happened to be in their path, or they have a mental illness, or they do not know or understand the Truth, or they have deep wounds that were never properly treated so they continue the cycle of inflicting pain. It is apparent that in many instances we passed unfair judgement. Jesus’ words echo in our soul, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) Most of all, we are given God’s peace and mercy. We also realize that we have caused others pain. So we ask the Lord for forgiveness and to help us bring healing through our words, deeds, and prayers.
Dear Friends, I know from experience this may not be easy, but with God all things are possible! (Matthew 19:26) As my pastor stated, God will give us the spiritual gifts that we ask for in faith. This may not happen instantly, but they will be given if we are humble, pure of heart, and truly seek to grow in holiness. Implore the Lord to help you, ask Him to help take away your rocks and replace them with His peace and mercy. Then, share that mercy with all your brothers and sisters in word, deed, and prayer. Remember forgiving others is actually acknowledging their sin, but rather than retaliate or harbor negative thoughts, asking the Lord to turn your hurt feelings into compassion and mercy toward your offender. Trust in Him and His desire to bring you closer to Him, the One who loved you unto death, who hung on the cross, innocent of all offenses and in unbelievable agony said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Can you hear His Dear Mother Mary say, If He can forgive the people who tortured and killed Him, cannot you pardon the people who hurt you?
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!
“Jesus, I trust in you.”
I am praying for you to feel the joy of His peace in your hearts today and every day.
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