Penance and Forgiveness: Never Look Back
"Jesus said to him, 'Once the hand is laid to the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62).
This is a good Scripture verse for us folks who come out of bad situations. We repent and are forgiven by the Lord and all our sinful thoughts and actions are wiped away. Also, on our part, it is vital for us to forgive each and every person who ever hurt us, just as we seek forgiveness from every person we have hurt. Forgiveness is a two way street and the key to healing. We choose to forgive. If that seems impossible because of our woundedness, then it's important to ask the Lord to help us to want to forgive. Asking God to help us shows a good will on our part, and the Lord can work with our good will. We mustn't allow the lack of feeling loving and forgiving to stop us from saying, "I forgive _____(name)______ in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Forgiving, just like loving, is often a choice.
PREPARING A DAY OF HEALING FORGIVENESS
A day or so before you do a forgiveness session for yourself, read the Gospel of St. John all the way through in one sitting. As you are reading, ask the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten you. This is a good pre-preparation.
Then choose a time when you will be completely alone for about an hour or so and will not be disturbed. Again ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and help you. Then ask the Lord Jesus to cover you in His Precious Blood and protect you. Also ask the Mother of Jesus to accompany you on this journey, asking for her motherly protection.
Begin by asking the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance all those persons you have to forgive. Don't dredge around in your unconscious as the Holy Spirit will float these memories to the surface. Don't be surprised at what emerges. Don't panic either. Remember that you are sitting between Jesus and Mary who love you and want this more for you than you realize.
As you become aware of a memory and a person, say, "I forgive _______________ in the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ." More than likely, you'll have to forgive God. "I forgive You, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." You will probably also have to forgive yourself. "I forgive myself in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ." Continue until no more names surface. Don't block any tears during this healing time. The Lord Jesus is healing you! Ask the Holy Spirit to pour the balm of His Love over your wounded heart.
When the healing session is over, rejoice and thank the Lord. Then do something active and fun for yourself and others.
DEALING WITH RECURRING MEMORIES
The world, the flesh, and the devil will throw up memories and their feelings from our unconscious. We may have to repeat our act(s) of forgiveness many times. We must not succumb to feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, and fear. Jesus and His merciful love is with us. "He that is within you is greater than he who is in the world" (1 John 4:4).
Jesus said in the prayer He taught us, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others" (Matthew 6:12). He also said in John 14:23, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him." Is this not the best reason in the world to forgive? To keep His word results in our becoming a dwelling place of the Holy Trinity and preparing for union with Jesus.
So as we keep going down the path of life, we must not look back! Don't be like Lot's wife who got turned into a pillar of salt. Looking back can paralyze us, blind us, and prevent us from being true penitents, "the converted ones." When ugly stuff surfaces, we thank the Lord for rescuing us and ask Him to help us forgive one more time. And with His loving, wounded arm around us (sometimes it's called a yoke), He guides us on His Way of Life to be one with Him.
Lucy St. Michael*
*Lucy St. Michael is the pen name of a member of the Confraternity of Penitents.