Reconciliation as the Way to Peace
Throughout Lent at Loreto Normanhurst we have been reflecting on the importance of examining our conscience and looking deep within our hearts, asking God to help us to be more than we have been. Our focus on Loving Our Neighbour challenges us to look at ourselves first. If we are to love our neighbour, we must first love ourselves. How can we love ourselves if we are dissatisfied with our own actions? How can we love ourselves when we know we have relationships that need to be healed? How can we expect to have peace in our own communities and world when we are not at peace with ourselves and our God?
The wonderful thing about our Christian and Catholic beliefs is that we are assured God loves us unconditionally and He has demonstrated this through sending His son Jesus into the world to show us the way. If we consider for a moment that Jesus was arrested and sentenced to death by the very people that were challenged by his message of love, forgiveness and mercy then surely He should have been angry and bitter; but he wasn’t, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Mt 23:24) If we refuse to forgive within our own circles of family and friends, how can we expect our world to find peace?
Marina McCoy writes a great article on how we might respond to the difficulties of reconciling and forgiveness. Of course at the centre of this is ourselves and our willingness to make the choice.
Five Ideas for Responding to a Refusal to Reconcile
Ms Marina McCoy (source: ignatianspirituality.com)
What can we do when another refuses to reconcile despite our best attempts? While the situation is imperfect, it can still be an opportunity for growth and for love. Here are a few ideas for how to respond.
- Let go and hand over the situation to God.
We can never control another person’s actions. Part of genuine reconciliation is to recognize the dignity of another person and their freedom to respond or not to respond, as she or he sees fit.
- Accept God’s forgiveness.
As good as it might be to hear expressions of forgiveness directly from a person whom we have offended, God is always waiting to extend forgiveness and love. Going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation can help to restore peace to our souls. God’s love is unconditional even when human love is conditional.
- Let the land lie fallow.
Among the practices associated with the jubilee year in the Hebrew Scriptures was allowing fields to lie fallow, i.e., not to plant so that they could have some rest and produce better in another year. Perhaps everyone involved in a damaged relationship needs time to process and to heal. Genuine reconciliation cannot be rushed and may take a very long time. In prayer, God can help us see what we need to see, and to heal where we need to heal.
- Forgive yourself.
Sometimes seeking forgiveness from another is really about an inability to forgive oneself. I regularly visit a prison, and while I find it relatively easy to believe that God forgives others even for the most serious of crimes, forgiving myself is much harder. Yet it is often only when we can love ourselves with our faults and failings that we love the way that God loves us, as we already are: human. We are broken and sinful, but also beautiful in our brokenness. Sin does not make us unworthy of love.
- Be the prodigal father.
When we think of mercy, it is easy to want to be the prodigal son or daughter who receives mercy. But Henri Nouwen, in The Return of the Prodigal Son, writes that we are also called to be the prodigal father. Part of Christian maturity is to learn that we are also the merciful parent, and not only the needy child. We are called not only to receive mercy, but also to be its bearers. Who is in need of our forgiveness? Who yet needs our mercy? And we may find in extending mercy to others that we find the very love and mercy for which we were looking.
Ms Libby Parker
Director of Mission