St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

Forgive Ourselves?                                                                                    -Homily December 7, 2014

 

It is customary to get ready for Christmas by means of a Penitential service. We purify ourselves by receiving the forgiveness of God. But some people find hard to forgive themselves. What does this mean? Is it important for receiving the forgiveness of God? One person once wrote:

 

“There were a couple of things I took away from the mass today. One is that I am reminded that God forgives. I feel like I am the one who needs to forgive myself for some of the choices I have made that affected others. I have worked on this for so long and discussed it with those who were the ones most affected. They have been gracious and forgiving. I'm grateful for that. [But] I don't know what that self-forgiveness feels like yet.”

 

Let me make two points about this today.

 

1- When we feel that we cannot forgive ourselves, it is perhaps that we cannot accept the fact that we did something so wrong. This, in turn, may come from our pride, that is to say, having too big an idea of ourselves. Instead, we need to understand that we are imperfect, and capable of making mistakes. To do something wrong is part of what we are, in a certain sense, not a surprise for God or for our neighbour. We need to accept that we are imperfect, that to do wrong things is possible for us, and sometimes we do wrong things. This recognition of our weakness and of our imperfection is what opens the door to the Mercy of God. We need to recognize that we are sick in order to welcome the Doctor of our souls. We need to recognize that we need him, that without him we are nothing, and if you want even a little less than nothing, because we are sinners.

 

Sometimes people cannot help us because we do not want to accept that we need help. Our pride makes us think that we are sufficient, we are strong, we don’t need anyone… but sometimes our problems, our mistakes, or our sins, like worms in our own bones, weigh heavy in our hearts. Self-sufficiency closes the door to the one who can help us. Humility is the first thing we need in order to heal, because it makes us accept our illness, and allows us to welcome the doctor. Humility makes us recognize that we cannot save ourselves, that if we keep going like this everything will go bad.

 

2- The feeling that we need still to forgive ourselves may also come from the uncertainty of still being at fault in some sense, the feeling that we should do something, that we have not done yet. Sometimes we feel hurt because we have hurt other people, who have suffered, and who may still be suffering the consequences of our actions. We feel that we are not redeemed because the people we have hurt are not redeemed yet. We feel their wound as our own, because we hurt them. Who can deliver us from that feeling?

 

If this is the case, there are a few things that may be helpful to keep in mind. First, it may be that you can still do something for those people. Sometimes it is only prayer: pray for them. Sometimes it is to offer some kind of penance for them. It is perhaps to say sorry. To show with your tears that you would rather have died than doing what you did. Sometimes it is to repair the consequences: to make a material compensation, or to give of your own time or your own talents to make up for the damage.

 

Sometimes there is nothing you can do. In that case you have to raise your eyes, remember that there is a God in Heaven, and ask him to do what you cannot do, but he certainly can. Tell him to heal the wounds of their hearts. Ask him to repair what you cannot repair. And remember that every suffering, even the suffering you have caused, may become an instrument of peace in the hands of God. God allowed Jesus to suffer the Cross, and that very same Cross obtained salvation for all of us. He was condemned unjustly, and killed by criminals, but by his obedience up to death all of us have been saved. But this takes us again to the first point: in order to accept this, we need to accept that we cannot do anything by ourselves, we need to be humble, and in that way open ourselves to the help of God. He never, never, NEVER denies his help to the humble: “God gives his grace to the humble” (cf. James 4:6).

 

If I invite you today to forgive yourselves, what I mean to say is this: open yourselves to the forgiveness of God. Let us accept our sins, let us confess them, let us confess that we are not able to repair the consequences of our choices in the life of others and in our own heart, and let us ask God to help us. Let us accept his help in confession. Let us be humble, because only those who recognize their illness can be healed. The Doctor is ready, but we the patients sometimes are not. Let us approach the Doctor with confidence, let us show our wounds to him. He wants to heal and console our hearts, let us allow him to love us, to pour out his infinite Mercy upon us. May the Blessed Virgin Mary help us to be humble like she is.  –Fr. Andrew

 

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