2 July, Thursday — The Power of Forgiveness

Thursday of Week 13 in Ordinary Time

Amos 7:10-17
Mt 9:1-8

“Now, which is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?            

In 2011, StoryCorps – a non-profit project that records short stories of everyday people – released one of its recordings: an interview between a mother who had lost her son and the man who had killed him. Mary Johnson lost her teenage son in 1993 when Oshea Israel got into a fight with him at a party and shot him. After 12 years, Johnson visited Israel in prison for the first time, hoping to find some answers. Up until then, she had harboured animosity and anger towards Israel and had to find a way to confront him. During that visit, she broke down in tears. Israel held her and that was when she felt all her anger slip away. She was finally able to forgive him, and the pair now live as next-door neighbours, where she treats him as a son.

When we sin or have been sinned against, more often than not we carry with us the immense load of guilt, shame and anger as a result. The more we ruminate and nurse it, the heavier and more permanent the load becomes until one day, we realise that it has become so much a part of our lives that we are dependent upon it as a form of ‘shield’ or ‘security blanket’. The price that we pay for feeding this pain is to have a parasitic relationship with our own pain – it feeds off our energy and confidence to move forward and live our best potential. It removes our courage and self-worth, convincing us that without it, we are nothing. It starves us of having a normal relationship with the world and, most importantly, with Jesus. It prevents us from seeing beyond the pain to the healing that Jesus holds, if only we could just let go and move forward to that healing. I have seen that pain before, and I have also lived that pain and realized how debilitating it can be to give up that power of life to the darkness of sin and pain. I have felt the effects of living a half-life, just merely existing, instead of waking up feeling grateful for life. I have been in danger of allowing this pain and resentment to replace my identity.

Yet, I also know what having life again feels like. To be able to surrender to God and say, “I don’t want to feed this pain anymore” and let Him take over. While it didn’t take me 12 years to get there, it did take me long enough to realise that I was in a hole so deep that I couldn’t get out by myself. I wanted so badly to heal and move on with my life, but physical healing is nothing if there is no corresponding emotional healing. The stress that anger and pain inflict on us affects us in all aspects: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Jesus wanted the people, and the paraplegic man as well, to understand this. Jesus probably knew that this man had more infirmities in his mind and heart than just his physical ones. He needed the man (and us) to know that the healing that he was going to give him was not just in one aspect, but a holistic healing. A total cleansing and forgiveness of his sins, with the slate wiped clean. Which was why he said, “Your sins are forgiven”.

We can seek professional,, medical help for our physical hurts and ailments. But while we do that, we must remember that total healing comes from God. Only God can forgive us, and help us to forgive, so that we can move on. This is so important that it is part of the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Grace and healing cannot flow freely if we are stuck in forgiveness paralysis. Whatever grudges or guilt that you currently have, be it from yesterday or from 15 years back, it is not worth holding on to. Revenge may be sweet, but it is also short-lived and does not benefit any party, least of all us. It may make us feel better for the moment, but it does not make us the better person. Let us focus our energies instead on seeking with a heart full of faith, the holistic healing that Jesus offers. It won’t be an easy or painless process, but as a diamond is tested by fire, we will emerge victorious on the other side.

(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please free us from the bondage of our sins, our anger, guilt, shame, resentment and pain that prevent us from coming to you. Heal our hearts even as you heal our bodies, that we may live in praise and glory of your name.     

Thanksgiving: Lord, thank you for forgiving us our sins and for giving us more grace than we are worthy of. Help us not to sin again but to move forward in life with you by our side.

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