Last night we listened to the story of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11). What a great story to revisit as we begin this Jubilee Year of Mercy! We heard from someone who has been in the shoes of the second son; the son who took his inheritance, squandered it, and returned home in need of mercy. The truth is, most of us have been there too. We all need forgiveness from time to time whether it's from God, a friend, a family member, or all three. One of the best parts of receiving forgiveness is the experience of joy that follows. We hear in the story that the father had the fattened calf killed, and they celebrated saying, "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found." What joy and relief this son must have experienced. This same joy awaits each of us in Reconciliation.
We also visited another story from Jesus that isn't as popular or easy to hear, The Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18:21). We hear in this story an echo of that part of the Lord's Prayer, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." We were challenged to write a letter to someone we need to forgive, seal it in an envelope, and keep it somewhere prominent to remind us of our call to be merciful. This was hard. For me, giving forgiveness is often more difficult than receiving it, and there are people in my life that I need to forgive. What about you? Is there anyone you need to forgive?
For those of us who have been deeply hurt, practicing forgiveness seems impossible, but we shouldn't forget that offering forgiveness does not mean saying that everything is ok. After all, sometimes those who offend us do not wish to reconcile with us. Instead when we forgive someone, we should acknowledge exactly what the offense cost us, and then make a decision to "release the person of their debt" so to speak. If there is someone in your life who warrants your forgiveness, begin to ask Jesus to help you forgive them.
This third week in Advent began yesterday on Gaudete Sunday. Gaudete means rejoice in Latin. Let this second half of Advent be a time for rejoicing; a time when faith and generosity overcome impossibility.
Mercy is the force that reawakens us to new life and instills in us the courage to look to the future with hope. -Pope Francis