September 2006 - Volume 11, Issue 2
By Rev. Mark Connolly
One of the most powerful teachings taught by Jesus Christ while He walked this earth was His teaching on forgiveness. He taught we must be willing to forgive those who trespass against us. He taught we must be wiling to forgive 70 times 7 times and even in His last few moments on earth He taught about forgiveness when he said, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do".
There has been a tremendous amount of material written about the theology and psychology of forgiveness ever since the time of Christ and so much of it is very valuable in our relationship with others. Most psychologists believe that if the real theology of forgiveness and the real psychology of forgiveness were really understood by many married couples, there would be much fewer divorces than there are today. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon that gives us insight and values that are so needed when we make major decisions. If forgiveness is lacking, oftentimes wrong decisions are made and a lot of people are hurt unnecessarily.
All of us remember the story of the mother of Maria Goretti at a Christmas Midnight Mass in Rome about the year 1939. She was assisted to and from the altar of St. Peter by a man with gray hair, a very distinguished personality who was then recognized as being the one who had killed her daughter, Maria. After Mass when she was confronted by a crowd of reporters who asked her how she would allow herself to be escorted to and from the Altar of God by the same man who had killed her daughter she simply answered, "if Maria, my daughter, could forgive him before she died, then so can I".
When you analyze what is taking place in the Middle East, the places where Christ preached this theology and psychology of forgiveness, you often wonder what would have happened if His teaching had ever taken hold and had been incorporated for the last nineteen hundred years in the lives of the people who walk throughout the same streets that Christ walked. No one is trying to be naive or sound innocent concerning complicated geopolitical problems, but there is something wrong with the thinking of mature men who can allow innocent women and children to be killed and then boast that they have come up with a temporary peace treaty. There is something wrong with the thinking mechanism of a country that can justify bombing after bombing, killing after killing, and then make efforts to create a peace treaty.
Years ago our country had a major war with Germany and Japan. Then there was a reconciliation. All three countries took part in an economic war that bettered the lives of millions of people. Prior to that, that military war that all of us were involved in cost the lives of millions of people. Somewhere along the line reconciliation became a factor in bringing these countries to peace. Vietnam, the same story, tragic military war that was followed by a shaky peace, but peace nevertheless. A reconciliation was present and seems to have lasted. Why do we have to wage a war that kills millions when if we learn how to forgive each other we can save millions of lives?
Forgiveness takes a lot of effort, a lot of hard work, but the forgiveness of Christ reaches out to protect the innocent, to protect the vulnerable. When you think of forgiveness you cannot think of it as something of an abstract principal. It has to start with one and be shown to another and then it spreads. Yes, there are a lot of people who will not take the time to implement the theology and psychology of forgiveness as taught by Christ and that is sad. What we are learning today is that with all the might we have, all the weaponry we have that continues to kill and kill, it really does not prove too much. Hopefully, in the plan of God who created this universe he will bring forth leaders, whether they are Muslim, Jewish or Christian, who will recognize that if forgiveness is taught at a very early age, if forgiveness is taught seriously in every home, that if forgiveness is taught in every community, we can all look forward to a greater sense of lasting peace compared to what we are achieving today. Forgiveness is not just a luxury, it is a necessity.
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