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Sunday, June 8, 2014
Pentecost: You Have the Power to Forgive
Well, I've always loved the feast of Pentecost. The whole notion of the Holy Spirit coming, the spirit who symbolized in fire and error, and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit that are given to us, it's a tremendously phenomenal feast day and one that brings so much excitement to me. But I think I never realized, and it was from the praying of the first reading of Gospel, the power that we have with the Holy Spirit. And the power that I'm talking about is the power to forgive.
You and I are given the power to forgive. See, by our human nature alone it's really difficult, almost impossible for to us forgive sometimes. So think about that in your life, maybe the worst thing that ever happened to you, the most horrible thing that anybody's ever done to you. In a human nature it is very difficult, if not not impossible, to forgive. But with the gift of the Holy Spirit, in the reality, we are Christ and we are given all the power of Christ and Christ is in us. We do have the ability to forgive sins, to forgive someone that may have hurt us. And I want you to think about that for a moment. Is there anyone in your life that has hurt you that you haven't forgiven? I want you to try to call to mind that person or those people. Are you holding any unforgiveness in your heart? Because right now I'm going to tell you that you have the power and the ability to forgive that person.
We heard at the very end of the Gospel, Jesus says, "Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Now, he's ultimately giving the commission to his Apostles, to his priest to forgive and to absolve sins, but the truth is, in baptism and in Pentecost, you all receive the Holy Spirit and you are given the power to forgive sins; not to the absolve sins, but to forgive. You can actually in your heart, in your life, forgive the people that have hurt you.
So I'm going to read you a couple of things. This is one of my favorite cards that I have, and it's titled "Are you called to forgive?" This is what true forgivenessis. So there's a number of points about what true forgiveness is. This is what it means to truly forgive.
First of all, true forgiveness is a decision. You make a decision to forgive someone. You have the power to do that.
True forgiveness is unconditional. That means when we forgive someone, we forgive them unconditionally. There's no strings attached, and there's no conditions we place on that forgiveness. True forgiveness is unconditional. You have the power to do that.
The third, true forgiveness is showing mercy even when the act was deliberate. So think about that. Even if somebody hurt you deliberately, true forgiveness means showing mercy, even if you know or believe the act was deliberate. You can forgive someone that has hurt you deliberately.
True forgiveness is taking the other where he or she is. So think about that. True forgiveness is just trying to look at the other person and accept them as they are, where they are on their journey of life. It's taking them as they are.
True forgiveness is taking the risk to get hurt again. If you forgive someone, you might be hurt again by them. But true forgiveness gives you the power and the ability to forgive, not only this hurt, but any hurt that comes along the way. Jesus says we are called to forgive our brothers and sisters, seven, times seven times.
True forgiveness is choosing to love. Choosing to love that other person is choosing to love ourselves and choosing to love God.
True forgiveness is accepting an apology. It's actually accepting somebody's apology and forgiving them. As I said before, unconditional.
True forgiveness, if we do it this way, it becomes a way of life. It's something that we are able do over and over and over again. And there may be something that is so painful to us that it keeps coming back up, and each time we choose to forgive. If we live these ways and if we do forgive like this, it will become a way of life. You do have the power to forgive.
Now, I want to give you the flip-side to forgiveness. This is what happens with us when we don't forgive.
So when people don't forgive -- and let me know if you can relate to any of this -- when people don't forgive, they are led by lives of anger and pain. When we don't forgive, we are directed by negative memories. We think constantly about the negative things about people, about life, rather than about all the good.
When we don't forgive, we do not act freely; we're bound by this unforgiveness. When people don't forgive, they keep a controlling grasp on situations and reality, and they do that to try to not get hurt again. When people don't forgive, they are pressured by lives of tension and stress. When we don't forgive, we place an undue amount of burden and stress on our lives. When people don't forgive, they probably shorten their lives. When people don't forgive, their relationships with others are strained. When people don't forgive their relationship with God is strained. When people don't forgive, they live with feelings of little self-worth. And when we don't forgive, we feel unrelieved guilt.
So the reality is we needed to forgive, because if we don't forgive, we are going to struggle all of our lives with all of these heavy burdens that we are not called to carry. Jesus said, "Come to you all who are burdened and take my yoke upon you and take me and learn from me. I am meek and humble of heart." Jesus was ultimately the one who forgave sins. He was the one who was crucified, suffered, died and was buried so that he could take on your sins. So the pains that happened in your life didn't really happen to you, they happened to Christ in you. He is in you.
And that's what we celebrate on this Pentecost Sunday; that any hurt that has happened in your life, anytime that someone has done something horrible to you, they have done it to Christ because he is in you. That same Christ that is in you that took upon this sin also can forgive sin. And you have the power to forgive anyone that has ever hurt you. So just want you to think about, the notion of what true forgiveness is and the reality and the unbelievable miracle that you have been given this power of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to forgive any sin, any hurt, anything wrong that anyone has ever done to you in your entire life.