“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” Many people remember that they are Catholic around this time of the year—a time when hearts become a little softer.
Christmas draws out the best in humanity. We wonder—how can Almighty God, who doesn’t need any of us, made us in His image? Why, in spite of the fact that we are sinners, does God continue to love us? The answer comes when we learn to love ourselves; when we learn to love each other—then the Sacrament of forgiveness starts to make sense. Sin can only be committed in the context of a relationship. We cannot sin against an object. If we break a chair—the chair is not hurt. The person to whom the chair belonged is the one who might be hurt. We can sin against God, against the community, but the most dangerous sins are those against our family. We can choose our friends, we can choose our enemies, but God is the One who picks our family. The majority of confessions have to do with trouble in the family. Not surprising, because the family is God’s first idea. Therefore, the family is the number one target of evil. But we can’t blame the devil for all our inadequacies. Especially when we hold on to grudges. Resentments do not allow us to forgive. To say, “I can’t forgive” is a fallacy. All of us have the power to forgive, unless we don’t want to. Granted some things are easier to let go, others take longer. Time is the best healer. Money, land, arguments are some of the most popular reasons why families stop talking to each other. The results are sleepless nights, tranquilizers, counseling. We are hurting where we are the most vulnerable—our family.
Problems will not just go away unless someone takes the first step. Saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.”—can be liberating. Even when we know that we were not to blame, we can ask for forgiveness. Many wait too long. Countless people stand over graves with regrets of what they should have, could have, might have said, but never did. As long as we draw breath in our body, we have the capacity to talk with one another. What is sometimes missing is the desire—the will. The greatest obstacle is pride. Usually, when there is a break up in the family, pride is the reason.
Keep in mind that all sins fall under the umbrella of the sin of pride. Forgiveness helps us to fight against pride. Reconciliation is the most commonly used title for the Sacrament. With God we will never have any problems. With people—that’s another story. Yet, how can we pray the “Our Father” when we say, “Forgives us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” To ask forgiveness of the person or persons whom we have offended is a necessary step in reconciliation. In many cases families have forgotten what the fight was about or who started it. Imagine grandparents not seeing their grandchildren because of an old argument. Give you a hint; in an argument with the family, nobody wins. We are shadow boxing. Celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation frees us of our sins and lifts a burden from our soul. But nothing can replace the freedom that comes from being forgiven by the people we have hurt. The most ancient symbol of forgiveness is the embrace. Jesus told a story, in the context of family to show the importance of letting go. The forgiving father welcomed his Prodigal son with an embrace, a kiss, and the best party the family had ever seen. The older son did not want to forgive. He did not join the party because he could not bring himself to forgive his father or his brother. Did the older brother ever come into the party? Was he able to put his pride aside and join the celebration? The answer is in our own life. That’s why the story is left opened.
God is the Father who is always ready to forgive. We are the two brothers, who have problems with each other. The party is here, for us. The decision to celebrate is up to us.