Home > Episcopal Church, Health, sabbatical, St. Patrick's, Theology > Gethsemani Post 5 – On Forgiveness

Gethsemani Post 5 – On Forgiveness

***Written last week during my silent retreat ***

 

One of the aspects of writing about events in one’s life is the dredging up of difficult memories. I do not know the way the Rev. Bill Livingston addressed journaling and ambiguous loss with the St. Patrick’s flock at his workshop, although I am sure it was brilliant! In fact the one negative to this whole sabbatical time was being unable MYSELF to attend the workshops we offered by three incredible people.

As I have done some writing on our shared experiences (as well as writing about a LOT of other things in my life), I began reliving some of the mistakes I have made as the Rector of St. Patrick’s. The Katrina experience certainly taught us a lot, in the early days and since, on failure – trying things and if they don’t work, trying other things. I am not talking about that. Instead I am talking about the ways I may have let people down, not been present for them (or not present in the right way) due to the many challenging commitments I was trying to satisfy, spending perhaps too much time in the eyes of some at Camp Coast Care, or not enough in the eyes of others. I am sure in those days I was short with people, failed to listen attentively, failed to follow up pastorally, or just plain failed as their Priest. This grieves me. So….if you are one of those folks, I do hope and pray you have long since found it in your heart to forgive me. If not, I hope and pray you will commit to doing so.

Forgiveness is a two way street, of course. At each prayer office we say the Lord’s Prayer. The very heart of this prayer which Jesus taught the disciples in response to them asking Him to teach them to pray, is forgiveness. It’s a conditional prayer, I hope we all see that. “Forgive us our trespasses (sins) AS WE FORGVE those who trespass (sin) against us.” We are asking for forgiveness, and Jesus says it is ours to have, as long as we practice forgiveness ourselves. Our Lord is teaching us a very important thing about our own spiritual, and often, physical well being. When we harbor grudges, when we are unable to forgive, it impacts US, not necessarily the person who trespasses against us. They may not even know they did something, or they may not even care – this is not the point. Jesus doesn’t teach us to forgive others as long as they accept our forgiveness – the onus is on us, pun intended, to forgive so that God will also forgive us.

Priests are human too. Undoubtedly I have hurt feelings, disappointed folks, angered some, puzzled others. In all those things, I ask your forgiveness.

And I offer my forgiveness also up to God. In revisiting some of the post-Katrina madness, it brought to the surface some of my own old wounds, where I was treated poorly or even meanly. In my heart of hearts, I truly forgive those who “trespassed against me”. I release any grudges or ill will, I harbor no resentment nor will I keep bad feelings in my heart towards anyone, even if sometimes it feels better to do so. For the book of Hebrews warns us against such, saying allowing a bitter root to grow within us will do us much harm. Will do US much harm.

Forgive me. I forgive also. Let us be about the practice of forgiveness. This practice does not, at all, imply we allow ourselves to be abused or mistreated. It does say we must work towards a place where we can forgive while at the same time not allowing such behavior, not supporting it in any way. Forgiveness doesn’t do that, but it does free us to be God’s children, knowing we too are forgiven.

Thanks to M. Basil Pennington who got me thinking about all this while reading one of his books.

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