We must forgive ourselves, accept His love and be healed.
When Fr. John spoke of forgiveness on Saturday, he said that a merciful person forgives over and over and over - until they have forgiven themselves.
Forgiveness is letting go of my right to hurt you because you hurt me. It is a matter of surrender. It is surrendering that "right."
God forgives completely. Our offenses are are tossed to the depths of the deepest ocean where they cannot be dredged up again. God's forgiving nature is extolled by Micah when he asks,
Who is there like you, God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of His inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, and will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt? You will cast into the depths of the sea all our sins. You will show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from days of old (7:18-20).
Forgiveness for humans isn't forgetting. It is a change of heart. Forgiveness doesn't overlook evil. In fact, we must admit when things are bad. Evil must not be allowed to continue. People in abusive situations must remove themselves from those situations. Forgiveness is not an approval of wrong. Yet we need to recognize that people are bigger than their faults. The faults of a person is not their whole definition.
To adopt a willingness for the forgiven to start over is freeing. Essential to that is recognizing that people are human being and that human beings are flawed. Forgiveness surrenders our right to get even. We wish the best for the person. You can't ask God for blessings you would withhold from anyone else. Compassion is wishing the same blessings for all. What we want for ourselves, we should want for everyone.
At this point Fr. John related the story which I'll take great license in paraphrasing:
Theresa and Rose were mother and daughter. They were from an impoverished rural area that seemed to offer little to the younger people. News of local teens running away to the capital city was frequently heard. Parents tried to combat the problem but, no matter what, children were still lost to the bright lights of the dark city.
Unfortunately, Rose too fell victim to the draw of the city. One morning Theresa awoke to find a note telling her not to worry. Asking for her to please understand.
Understand is exactly what Theresa did. She understood the dangers. Drugs, violence, prostitution. She understood that Rose - her Rosie, her child, her baby - was unprepared for the life to which she was headed, a life for which no one could be prepared.
Theresa gathered herself together, took all her money and walked to the bus depot. There she purchased round trip tickets to the capital city. Having done that, she took the rest of her money across the terminal to the photo booth where she used the money to purchase all the strips of pictures of herself that it would buy.
On the trip to the city, had the other travelers paid any attention to Theresa, they would have seen her writing on the back of each photo, one after the other. Calm, yet focused, Theresa turned over each and wrote the same thing.
When she reach the city, Theresa a woman of determination set out for areas not found on any tourist map. Tirelessly she visited all the seedy sections. Wandered dirty alley ways. Stepped over heroin addicts crumbled outside of "shooting galleries." Visited hotels bearing the stench of the lowest form of human commerce. Wherever there was a bulletin board, she posted one of the pictures.
When all the pictures were gone, she returned home.
Months afterward, in the late night/early morning hours a young woman bearing the exhaustion of use came down the thin staircase of an hourly rate hotel. Head down until she reached the bottom of the stairs, she raised her head as she turned toward the exit. In that moment, something caught her eye. Amid the notices, on a bulletin board littered with a multitude of advertisements, fliers, announcement and pronouncements was a picture that could only be seen as the wind from the open doorway caught the corner of the paper almost completely covering it.
Rose reached out. The moment seemed unreal. In front of her was a picture of her mother. She took the photo in her hand as her lips silently said one word, "Momma."
On the back of the picture Rose found the following words: