Monday, September 18, 2017

The Healing Power of Forgiveness, 24th Sunday OT (Cycle A)

   This week’s readings are a perfect segue for me to talk about a ministry which is very close to my heart. This ministry has given me the opportunity to witness how God's grace can transform the human heart. Working on this for the last few years, I have seen the awesome and liberating power forgiveness has on those who are willing to forgive. I have also seen how when is NOT given, is capable of enslaving the human spirit.
    The ministry I’m speaking of today is the work I do with divorced and separated Catholics. Now it is a well known fact that Catholics do not divorce, right? It is also well known that more than 50% of Catholic marriages end in divorce. You might be thinking how can this be? Well I have found by talking to people who are in the midst of a separation or a divorce, that these two ideas can exist in our minds because we are convinced that divorce is something that only happens to other people and not to us.   Now I’m not going to get into why divorce happens, at the end of the day it happens because of human weakness and sin. Today I want to focus on how forgiveness is the KEY to deal with the hurricane of emotions we are thrown into when we suffer the end of a marriage, the breakup of a family, and the loss of a spouse.

    To do this I do not have to go too far;  In today’s first reading we hear Ben-Sirach exclaim “Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the LORD?”   Yes, it is that simple. Healing can only be given to us when we are able to abandon our anger against those who hurt us. 
   As you can imagine there is a lot of anger in divorce, anger against spouses, friends, relatives but also anger against ourselves. It is only when we recognize these emotions and refuse to be mastered by them that the healing process can move ahead. To some people it happens very fast, but to others it can take years.    I know very well what I’m saying here. Almost 30 years ago I went through my own divorce and it took me 15 years to realize I needed to forgive myself AND my former spouse in order to completely heal the wounds of my divorce. Now forgiveness is not “I forgive you, now we are going to become best friends again”. The forgiveness I’m speaking about is letting go of the past and accepting the other person and ourselves for whom we were that day in which the marriage vows were exchanged. And recognizing how weak, immature, selfish and arrogant we had been in our lives. This doesn't happen in an instant, it is a process that takes time, sometimes years.
   When I went through my divorce, I had to do this all by myself. Thirty years ago, divorce was something good Catholics in the Church did not acknowledge. Sadly, this is the reason why so many divorced people have decided to abandon the Church, or have chosen to live as Catholics in irregular second marriages.
    Luckily, this doesn’t have to be case any more. Here at St  Michael’s we have a divorce care ministry which is available to anyone who would like to start the long road to complete healing and liberation.
In a few minutes Irene Cochran, our co-facilitator for the Divorce Recovery Ministry will be telling you her own story and how we can help you in our ministry.
    So if you have experienced divorce, or know someone who has or is in the midst of their own divorce, I encourage you to take this information and share it with them.  Remember, the people who are not here today depend on you to reach out, touch them and bring to them the true healing that comes from the process of forgiveness. GBMBAS