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Is Forgiveness the Answer?


Fr. Ted Vierra, CSP, has lived in the Paulist Fathers community at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Los Angeles for many years, but I don’t remember him ever being a member of the parish staff. So, years ago when my son, Patrick, was an altar server, he didn’t know Fr. Ted.  One Sunday, Pat served a mass at which Fr. Ted was the presider.  When Pat came out to the car after mass, he told us that Fr. Ted was like a Jedi Master from Star Wars. There was something special about Fr. Ted, and this young boy had picked up on it.

 

Last Sunday, Fr. Ted presided at the 7:30 Mass. Now in his early 90's, the Force is still strong with this one. He preached about how Catholics may be known for our guilt, but that disciples of Christ should be known for (here, I was expecting him to say…our love)…our forgiveness



Fr. Ted started walking through all the ways that the Risen Christ forgave people - like Peter who betrayed him and Thomas who doubted him. Leaning into the scriptures of the day, he pointed out how Luke reminds us in the Acts of the Apostles that the people and their leaders who crucified Jesus acted out of ignorance, and that forgiveness was theirs with a simple change of heart. Then he cited the first letter of St. John, reminding us that Jesus advocated, not just for Christians, but for the whole world. The whole world was forgiven.

 

Next came how forgiveness is at the heart of the “Our Father,” the prayer that Jesus himself taught us…forgive us our sins as we forgive others. Finally, Fr. Ted took us to the words of the consecration at Mass.



Take this, all of you, and drink from it. This is the cup of My Blood, the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven.”

 

This weekend I will attend a summit organized by the Paulist Fathers, and I plan to pack Fr. Ted's forgiveness mandate in my carry-on luggage. The summit is envisioned to be the inauguration of an ongoing initiative that will attempt to explore and respond to the toxic polarization that exists in our society and in our Church.


Currently, various factions within the Church are attempting to single out one specific moral issue and make it the litmus test for what true Christian discipleship looks like. For some, this litmus test is abortion; for others, women’s ordinations, just to name two. I am as guilty as the next person in this regard. Perhaps forgiveness is the litmus test we are looking for, as it is so central to Jesus’ teachings.



As I prepare for this exceptional opportunity to meet people face-to-face and, as Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium, “see others in their deepest dignity,” I need to forgive myself my past snarky judgements about those who see the Church through a different lens.

 

Forgiveness is not simple or easy, but without it, as Desmond Tutu once said, there is no future. Fortunately, St. Paul has some helpful suggestions, “Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also forgive.” (Colossians 3:12–13).



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Thanks for this wonderful reflection, Claire! This line really struck me, and I will be carrying it with me for a while - "Perhaps forgiveness is the litmus test we are looking for, as it is so central to Jesus’ teachings." - Dan M.

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Absolutely perfectly put!

Have a fabulous summit❤️

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Love this one Claire

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