“Forgiveness is a habit, and like all habits it is one we need to practice on a daily basis”
Forgiveness comes hard to our human nature. It is difficult, but not impossible. As Christians we are called to listen to the “better angels of our nature.”
The Fault Jar
After 15 years of marriage a couple began to fight with each other more than was usual. They seemed to disagree on everything. But they wanted to make their marriage work and so they both agreed to an idea the wife had. They each constructed a “Fault” box and for one month every time their spouse did something that irritated them they would write out the fault on a slip of paper and put it in the box. At the end of the month they would exchange boxes.
The wife was diligent in recording all the little things her husband did on a daily basis that annoyed her; “leaving the tops of jars,” “wet towels on the floor,” “dirty socks not in the hamper,” and so on until the end of the month.
At the end of the month, after dinner, they exchanged their boxes. The husband reflected on all the ways he had not been sensitive to his wife’s feelings and needs. Then his wife opened her box and began reading. But every slip of paper in the box bore the same message, “I love you.”
Forgiveness is a habit
Forgiveness is a habit, and like all habits it is one we need to practice on a daily basis, until it comes to us as naturally as anger and resentment do.
With the story of “Doubting Thomas” it is easy to overlook the more significant event in today’s Gospel. The Lord imparts the Holy Spirit to His community of believers and admonishes them to forgive one another’s sins. This is much more than Jesus instructing his priests. It is an instruction meant for the whole community.
The earliest Christian community described in the first reading must have been a marvel, unfortunately it did not last too long. The next chapter in the Acts of the Apostles shows that greed entered into the community and discrimination was not far behind. St. Paul criticized some believers for divisions within their communities. Subsequent letters criticized Christians for their factions, envy, jealousies, indifference, dissension and problems with authority.
The Church has always had to struggle with building the perfect Christian community. A lack of faith and an inability to forgive make this all the more difficult. Forgiveness then is the gift Jesus imparts to us, a gift that must be shared with others. And to do this requires faith. An attitude of belief and surrender must replace an insistence on seeing and experiencing.
The peace of the community we read about today came entirely from spiritual inspiration, it would have been almost impossible to achieve any other way. Is there anything we hold against our neighbors? Do we withhold forgiveness or foster division where there should be reconciliation and unity?
Let us heed the words of Jesus and forgive that we may be forgiven. When we are called to account for the way we have treated others, let every slip in our “Fault” box read “I love you.”
© Lawrence Klimecki
Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com