There is such richness with which this Gospel offers us as a way forward from unforgiveness to understanding, and compassion, however, I was reminded of a recent incident between our grandson, William, and his grandpa. Spiritual writer, Paula D’Arcy, suggests that “God comes disguised as your life.” So here goes a parable from my life! William, who just turned six-years-old and has quite the independent streak, to say the least. On this occasion, we were swimming in our neighbor’s pool along with his older brother and sister. William jumped into the pool a little too close to the edge for our comfort and his grandpa cautioned him to be careful. William looked straight at his grandpa and jumped in the same position as he had done the previous time. Adding insult to injury, he refused to get out of the pool as a “time out” for a violation of safety rules. Not to be deterred, his grandpa lifted him out to the sideline to make a statement.
As you can imagine, this “time out” did not go down well with our William, he caused such a ruckus that our neighbor came out to see who was being attacked. ?
Luckily, we were at the end of our time, so we began to make our way back home to shower and dry-off. Before I knew what was happening, his big sister, Cate, who just turned ten-years-old threw her arm on his shoulder as he screamed up a storm. “Grandma, I’ve got this, don’t worry.” She gently guided him into the shower and closed the door while William shouted, “I hate grandpa!” While he showered, we could hear them talk over the situation and when they were all done, William came directly out to grandpa and told him he was sorry for what he had done. Needless to say, his grandpa offered him forgiveness and we moved on to snack time in peace. To finish up the story, Cate came quietly to me explaining that her brother was too upset to listen to reason at the time. She knew exactly how to deal with him, she gave him the space he needed, told him that he should apologize to grandpa because grandpa only wished for his safety. After all, he loved him. Would that we could all have a gentle advocate like Cate in matters of forgiveness.
You might be thinking, how simple, but life is complicated. Yet, this is exactly as Jesus suggests earlier in this chapter, “Unless you turn and become like little children…..”(18:3). Children are humble, they are not impressed with status, they simply know us by our actions towards them. They have a keen sense of fairness and justice. They do not bear grudges.
Jesus’ words to the community at the beginning of this chapter reflect his desire that we keep renewing our commitment to being in right relationships with everyone—to be at peace. Sadly, we can make things complicated, and honestly, some of us do find it hard to forgive and we carry our deep wounds with us into every day. Is that why the first reading speaks so much about baggage?
Jesus himself leads the way in asking his Father to forgive his crucifiers (Luke 23:34). Forgiveness is a process and is totally in the hands of God as it can only come to us through his grace (2 Corinthians 12:9). It can take moments or even a lifetime, the lesson that I hear from this Gospel is that God understands our heart and knows what is best for us. So, if this is your struggle, with each dawn pass that baggage along to God just for this day…and the next…. Who knows maybe an angel like Cate may come to help guide you.
Dear Lord, heal us from our wounds and unforgiveness, free us from bondage so we may move into the future with hope. Give us the courage, humility, and desire to repair our relationships. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.