Fire For Forgiveness

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fire of forgivenssThe Fire of Forgiveness

You may not think about the “fire of forgiveness when you think about this Scripture. When Azariah stood up in the fire and prayed aloud: “For your name sake, O Lord, do not deliver us up forever, or make void your covenant. Do not take away your mercy from us…For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. But with a contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly, for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, and we fear you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and mercy. Deliver us by your wonders, and bring glory to your name, O Lord” (Daniel 3: 25, the prayer in the fiery furnace)

Today we are going to talk about compassion evoking love power as a primary gift of forgiveness and healing is given by the Lord to the Church. The key of receiving many transforming favors from the Lord is centered in “wholehearted forgiveness”. We see this directly taught by Jesus in the parable of the unjust steward: Peter asks Jesus how often, seven times, should I forgive, Jesus responds: not seven times, but seventy-seven times. Jesus then proceeds to tell the parable of the unjust servant who had been forgiven by his master a huge amount, because he pleaded for mercy. Then he went out and met a servant who owed him a much less amount, which the unjust servant would not forgive. He took his fellow servants possessions and had the servant and his family put in prison. His fellow servants told their master about this, and he called in the servant for whom he forgave a huge amount. The master said to him, “You wicked servant, I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you.” Then in anger, his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart. (Mt. 18: 21-35)

“Reproduce good fruit as evidence of your repentance…I am baptizing you with water for repentance…Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the FIRE. I am baptizing you with water for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and FIRE.” In contrast to John’s baptism in water for repentance, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit and fire. By early Christians, the ‘holy Spirit and fire was understood as the outpouring of the Spirit of Pentecost, but according to John, the Spirit and fire are relating to the purifying and refining characteristics of the Spirit and fire poured out at Pentecost. (Lk. 3:16-19)

In the biblical story of the Golden Café which the Israelites made out of all their golden jewelry, symbolizing their sin, worldly revelry, and idol worship, Moses infused all of it in the fire and melted it down, put it in water and made the Israelites drink it as a reparation and purifying punishment for their disobedience and sensual revelry.(Exodus 32: 1-20)

In his mercy the Lord bestows compassion and the purifying fire of the Spirit when he forgives our sin, “for we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another. But when the kindness and generous love of God our Savior appeared, not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3: 3-5) The tongues of the purifying and transforming fire of Pentecost comes upon us when we receive his divine mercy and compassion in forgiveness.

Forgiveness is not always an easy thing! The purifying fire of repentance and forgiveness burns.   Frequently we try to forgive because it is what the scriptures call for, and it is the right thing to do. Sometimes our forgiveness can be very cerebral or superficial. There are times when we say, “I forgive you” when we really don’t mean it, or we are taken by surprise by the hurt of another and haven’t had time to process the incident and thus are not really ready to forgive. Or it is a long-standing wound that runs deep in us and a simple ‘I forgive you’ doesn’t do the job. Therefore, often we don’t truly forgive the offenses of others from our hearts. We don’t forgive the entire debt of another’s words or actions that have been hurtful and wounding. We merely tolerate them. Or we let them accumulate and accrue with interest. It is possible to allow unresolved resentments to fill our scorecard until we can’t stand it anymore, and it surfaces in us in some painful or ugly ways within us. The statement of Jesus, that we have to forgive others from our heart, requires us to erase the full measure of the hurt, pain, loss, or betrayal that others have caused us. This requires our dedication or commitment to reach out and extend a liberating mercy and compassion to others and ourselves, whether it is the first offense or the result of many longstanding and accumulated hurts.

Because we live in an imperfect, sometimes dangerous and sinful world, very few people escape the reality of receiving, intentionally and many times unintentionally, the wounds and hurts from others in the various stages of human development from conception to adulthood. Added to this is the reality of our personal sins and mistakes we make in life. Sometimes we are more vulnerable than we realize. No matter in what manner we come to the understanding of God’s merciful goodness and his deep personal love for each one of us, we automatically desire to respond to the Lord’s initiatives as fully as we can. So when we respond to some degree, we experience the wonderful working of the grace and power of God’s love actively present in our life. The scriptures clearly reveal a personal commitment to Jesus Christ activates for those who are baptized in water, an experiential knowledge that the Father in Jesus through the Spirit dwells proactively within our very being. “Do you not know that you are temples of the Holy Spirit.”; and “God is love and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him.”

This basic and fundamental reality sets us on a dynamic path for holiness and human maturity; the narrow way Jesus speaks about in the Gospel. As we begin praying more the Spirit of God begins to gently show us areas of unforgiveness in many relationships and situations in our life. This process can go way back to the time of conception. Life-giving repentance in the Holy Spirit actively leads us to forgiveness of those who have hurt us in the past and even now in the present. And as we forgive others we begin to feel some freedom from various types of darkness and oppression. We are also led to ask the Lord to forgive us for the hurts or harm we have done to others. And most importantly we are called to forgive ourselves. This process of transformation can have many aspects and levels in the Christian growth of our human personhood.

First of all, it is important to consciously realize that the Lord with his compassionate love and mercy is the initiator and sustainer of the gift of forgiveness that leads us to spiritual freedom. It is good to remember that forgiveness is a big benefit to me, and by no means lets the person who has wounded me off the hook. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. We may never be reconciled with the other person, yet we may experience God’s gift of freedom in our self. When we do forgiveness we should try and stand in the living faith, and in the active power and presence of Jesus. The life-giving Spirit-filled repentance and forgiveness is an experience of the Father’s merciful love in our lives. Forgiveness is a process experienced at various levels of our human development, sometimes with the person, we have forgiven before. My personal action of forgiveness is the Mercy of Jesus in action. My personal exercise of forgiveness, as a servant of mercy, is practicing the spiritual and sometimes corporal works of mercy. Forgiveness is at the heart of Divine Mercy.

How do we bring forgiveness to full completion and freedom? In an attempt to do forgiveness in our heart there are various reasons to consider why individuals do not complete their repentance and forgiveness, and as a result, they do not experience the complete freedom of forgiveness. In the first instance, a person may recognize ones unforgiveness or sin, and make a sincere decision to repent by confessing it to the Lord or another authentic person who is able to receive it. And then stop there; they may not check to see if they need healing or deliverance for those hurts which surround the wounded situation or sin. Even when they do this they may still not complete the process of forgiveness by not performing the actions which are going to really give them the closure they are looking for. This next phase of the forgiveness process to completion has two parts. After genuine and substantial forgiveness, and receiving the necessary healing or counsel, it is important to leave go or surrender the negative experience and the hurting event. Some individuals do not want to let go of their hurts and wounds, and as a result, they do not experience total freedom, and painful memories keep coming back. the second and final part leading to complete freedom is power centered praying for the person(s) who have hurt us, not just a superficial prayer which doesn’t penetrate and change the situation. But power centered prayer which brings everything to the freedom of completion. This is especially true in longstanding abuse, hurts, or wounds in the relationships which were the occasion for the unforgiveness. Here is a summary of this forgiveness process leading to peaceful complete freedom: 1) sincere and honest decision and appropriate action to exercise heartfelt forgiveness, 2) receiving the necessary counseling, healing, or deliverance surrounding the situation, 3) letting go and surrendering all the negative elements involved, and 4) power centered prayer for the individual(s) who caused the problem. All four of these aspects need to be pursued in order to allow forgiveness to bring complete spiritual freedom.

May We Pray!

Our Lord spurs us on to desire and possess a more abundant life through the healing gift of mercy, and being rich in mercy you constantly offer pardon and call we sinners on to trust in your forgiveness alone. You have never turned away from us, and through time and time again we have broken your covenant, you have bound the human family to yourself through Jesus your Son, our Savior, and Redeemer, with a new bond of love so tight that it can never be undone. Even now in “the Grace of the Present Moment,” this time of grace and reconciliation, and as each one of us turns back to you, you grant us hope and freedom in Christ Jesus, and a desire to be of service to all, as we entrust ourselves more fully to the Holy Spirit, and so filled with love and wonder, we extol the power of your merciful and healing love, and proclaim to others the joy of salvation which comes from you! We pray this prayer in the power of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection in Jesus name. Amen.

Comments

  1. oliva ofs penitent pilgrim says:

    What is striking in the penitential prayer of Azariah is the correlation between sin and shame:

    “You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us … by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins.
    For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously.  We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good.

    “And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach.

    “Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, … and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you.  And now with all our heart we follow you; …
    Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy.”  from The Book of Prophet Daniel

    Shame is the first biblically recorded emotion resulting from Adam and Eve’s disobedience (sin) towards God. 
    Yet it wasn’t like that in the beginning: “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.” (Gen 2:25)

    In the catastrophic experience of shame, they instinctively tried to protect themselves by passing the blame and covering themselves.   They had become “self” conscious.  Their being made in the image and after the likeness of God was radically altered.  They saw themselves as naked, exposed, and unprotected.  Fear became a dreadful spawn.

    “When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  The LORD God then called to the man and asked him: ‘Where are you?’  He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.’ Then God asked: ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ ”
    (Gen 3:8-11)

    The consequences of personal sin and sin against us can be so devastating that we can go to great lengths to try to cover our nakedness, our shame, with layers of protective identity [with “everything in the world — the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16)], so as to divert our attention away from the shame we bare.  This is what Adam and Eve did when the eyes of both of them were “opened” and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves (Gen 3:7), and when they hid themselves among the trees (Gen 3:8).

    Forgiving can be the most dangerous and scariest feeling, for it is releasing all the sinners, liars, hypocrites, abusers, narcissists, slanderers, calumniators, gossips, ingrates, thieves, extortionists, predators, yeah, the very ones who have hurt us.  It is setting everyone free.  We falsely reason within ourselves: “uncontrollable psychological and emotional chaos will be unleashed!  Forgiving everyone for everything will create havoc in my soul.  I can’t bear the thought of it!  It is better to keep them locked up to retain the little small shred of dignity, protection, and self respect I have left.”  We are terrorised by the possibility of being put to shame again, having been shamed or having shamed ourselves by our personal sins.

    However, it is just as the Scripture says: “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.”  (Rom 10:11)

    Jesus suffered the consummate violation of human dignity (Ps 22:6) being spat upon, slapped, punched, lacerated by scourging, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, while being vilified, scorned, reviled, mocked, and ridiculed the whole time.  Bearing the deepest and greatest social shame and disgust, Jesus Christ hung naked and exposed on the Cross and as He did so, pronounced our forgiveness which could not have been spoken from anywhere else: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  (Lk 23:34)

    Forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ (Eph 4:32) is an act of true forgiveness which cannot but follow the same pattern that Jesus set before us: self offering, self emptying, and vulnerable. (Phil 2:5-8)  This can be exceedingly difficult the deeper the sin and the shame, but altogether doable, because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!

    “For the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, DESPISING THE SHAME.” (Heb 12:2)
    Acting contrary (agere contra) to the shame that was cast upon us is to bear a little portion of the true Cross.  
    St. John Climacus taught:  “You cannot escape shame except by shame.”

    Sacramental Confession is a God given opportunity to face the shame of all our sins that distort and corrupt our human dignity and be forgiven of them.
    Confession (a therapeutic discipline) is how souls open to the healing power of grace that allows one to bring into the light of God’s love the psychogenic secret at the root of one’s dis-ease.  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” 
    (James 5:16) 

    By the grace of perseverance we are returned to our true image; our “face” (human dignity) is again restored.  Asking forgiveness from another is the opportunity to face the affront to their dignity we caused and recieve mercy from God whether they forgive us or not.  Forgiving others from the heart, 7 x 70 (Matt 6:14; 18:22; 18:35), paradoxically not only lets them go, but more profoundly sets us free from the bondage engendered by their sin against us.  Forgiving oneself is an act of humility.  God shows grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

    Forgiveness from the heart precedes true freedom.  Jesus said “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Jn 8:31-32. 
    We know we have been forgiving and set free when we can pray God’s blessings upon those who have trespassed against us.

    Fr. David, thank you for this episode.

  2. oliva ofs/penitent pilgrim of Divine Mercy says:

    As in a symphonic composition which has three or more movements, this episode, a sobering movement of the Holy Spirit, drew me into a multidimensional range of forgiveness.  While reading and listening to this talk and pondering on the elements presented, a theme emerged that provided a deep and intensely personal nuanced working understanding of the rich and beautiful variations of Divine Mercy.

    This theme was a bright light upon what is often experienced as painfully dark places in our spiritual passages.

    What is striking in the penitential prayer of Azariah is the correlation between sin and shame:

    “You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us … by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins.
    For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously.  We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good.

    “And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach.

    “Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, … and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you.  And now with all our heart we follow you; …
    Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy.”  (from The Book of the Prophet Daniel Chaper 3)

    Shame is the first biblically recorded emotion resulting from Adam and Eve’s disobedience (sin) towards God.  

    Yet it wasn’t like that in the beginning: “The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.” (Gen 2:25)

    In the catastrophic experience of shame, they instinctively tried to protect themselves by passing the blame and covering themselves.   They had become “self” conscious.  Their being, made in the image and after the likeness of God (Gen 1:26) was radically altered.  They saw themselves as naked, exposed, and unprotected.  Fear became a dreadful spawn.

    “When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  The LORD God then called to the man and asked him:  ‘Where are you?’  He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid.’  Then God asked:  ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ ”  (Gen 3:8-11)

    This theme of sin and shame (and it’s motifs such as nakedness, exposure, and vulnerability), and it’s variations throughout Salvation History from Genesis through Revelation, can be heard within every step the people of God and each person has made toward the culmination of Redemption.

    The consequences of personal sin and sin against us can be so devastating that we go to great lengths to try to cover our nakedness, our shame, with layers of protective identity [with “everything in the world — the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16)], so as to divert attention away from the shame we bare.  This is what Adam and Eve did when “the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Gen 3:7), and when “the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Gen 3:8).

    Forgiveness can be the most dangerous and scariest feeling besides being highly risky.   It releases all the sinners, liars, hypocrites, abusers, narcissists, predators, extortionists, murderers, thieves, slanderers, calumniators, gossips, ingrates, yeah, all the very ones who have hurt us or the ones we love.  It is setting everyone free.   We falsely reason within ourselves:  “uncontrollable psychological and emotional chaos will be unleashed!  Forgiving everyone for everything will create havoc in my soul!  I can’t bear just the thought of it!  What will become of me?”   It is better to keep them locked up in unforgiveness in order to retain the little small shred of dignity, protection, and self respect I have left.” 

    We are terrorised by the possibility of being put to shame again, having been shamed or/and having shamed ourselves by our personal sins.  There are no guarantees, humanly speaking, that everything will turn out all right.  Yet, we can’t manage to drown out with a cacophony of cleverly concocted excuses the heavenly goad:  unless you forgive your brother, your sister, from the heart the heavenly Father will do to you like the master did by handing you over to the torturers until you should pay back the whole debt.   (The Parable of the Unjust Servant, Matt 18:21-35).
    We are summoned to walk by faith, not by sight.  (2 Cor. 5:7)
    It is just as the Scripture says: “Anyone who BELIEVES in Him will never be put to shame.”  (Rom 10:11)

    Jesus suffered the consummate violation of human dignity (Ps 22:6) being spat upon, slapped, punched, lacerated by scourging, crowned with thorns, nailed to a cross, while being vilified, scorned, reviled, mocked, and ridiculed the whole time.  Bearing the deepest and greatest social shame and disgust, Jesus Christ hung naked and exposed on the Cross and as He did so, pronounced our forgiveness that could not have been spoken from anywhere else: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  (Lk 23:34)

    Forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ (Eph 4:32) is an act of true forgiveness which cannot but follow the same pattern that Jesus set before us: self offering, self emptying, and vulnerable. (Phil 2:5-8)  This can be exceedingly difficult the deeper the sin and the shame, but altogether doable, because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!
    “For the JOY set before Him, Jesus endured the cross, DESPISING THE SHAME.” (Heb 12:2)
    Acting contrary (agere contra) to the shame that was cast upon us is to bear a little portion of the true Cross.  
    St. John Climacus taught:  “You cannot escape shame except by shame.”

    Sacramental Confession is a God given opportunity to face the shame of all our sins that distort and corrupt our human dignity and be forgiven of them.
    Confession (a therapeutic discipline) is how souls open to the healing power of grace that allows one to bring into the light of God’s love that “psychogenic secret” at the root of one’s dis-ease.  “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.” 
    (James 5:16) 

    Through forgiveness, we re-turn (repentance and conversion) to our true image (in Christ); our “face” (human dignity) is once again restored to the Innocence we were gifted with in the Sacrament of Baptism.  Asking forgiveness from another is the opportunity to face the affront to their dignity we caused and recieve mercy from God whether they forgive us or not.  Forgiving others from the heart, 70 x 7 (Matt 6:14; 18:22; 18:35), paradoxically not only lets them go, but more profoundly sets us free from the bondage engendered by their sin against us.  Forgiving oneself is powerful act of humility.  “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  (James 4:6)
    Thus forgiveness from the heart precedes spiritual freedom.  Jesus said “If you abide in My word, you are truly My disciples.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  Jn 8:31-32. 
    We will know we have been forgiven and set free when we can freely pray God’s mercy upon those who have trespassed against us (making reparation for our sins and for the conversion of sinners).  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  (Gal 5:1)

    From the beginning, our LORD God did not leave man and woman in their nakedness and shame.  He provided by sacrifice:  “The LORD God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them.”  (Gen 3:21)  From the beginning God’s patience and abundant mercy is demonstrative.  In all matters divine, God takes the initiative.

    In the fullness of time God send His only begotten Son as the preeminent Sacrifice par excellent that His people may be clothed, not by anything created, but by God’s very Being.  God’s patience and abundant mercy is infinitely demonstrative in Christ.  It is Divine Mercy.

    By extension as being members of the Body of Christ, we are called to live Divine Mercy:  “Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.”  (1 Pet 4:8)

    Fr. David, thank you so much for this episode.

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