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"Do we live like we're forgiven?" by AnneMarie Miller (CatholicMom.com) Pixabay (2013), CC0 Public Domain[/caption] It's easy to live under the cloud of resentment, isn't it? We undergo challenging situations, encounter difficult people, and carry around negative experiences and memories for a long time. We tightly cling to things other people have said or done and let uncharitable feelings build over time. Sometimes we may not even carry around bitter feelings towards other people, but in regard to ourselves. There have been times where I've held onto resentment for years. Even knowing that God had already forgiven me, even going to Confession and receiving His graces, I still beat myself up over and over again. We may justify all of this, telling ourselves, "I'm only human, so it's natural that I think and act this way." Friends, we are not called to live like this. As Pope Francis reminds us in his beautiful apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate,
"Jesus does not say, “Blessed are those who plot revenge.” He calls “blessed” those who forgive and do so “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22). We need to think of ourselves as an army of the forgiven. All of us have been looked upon with divine compassion" (#82).
Pope Francis gives us powerful imagery to reflect on: an "army of the forgiven." Do we act like an army of forgiven men and women? I, for one, do not think I reflect this image very well. When I think of an army, I think of an organized group of people who are working together to achieve one particular goal. Oftentimes, though, I feel like I'm floundering around helplessly. Still, even with my imperfections and stumbling, I'm striving to remember that I am part of an "army of the forgiven"-and I'm trying to act like it! Here are a few things I've found helpful in my journey to living out the forgiveness that God offers us: 1. Receiving the Sacrament of Confession.  God offers us incredible gifts and healing through this sacrament, and we would do well to frequent the confessional often. Even if we haven't fallen into mortal sin, Confession reconciles us with God and the Church, and strengthens us (CCC #1468-1469). I (and probably those close to me) can always tell when it's been a while since I've been to Confession, since I find myself falling into sin more often. Pick a date on your calendar and go encounter God's love and mercy in Confession. 2. Beginning therapy for my mental health.  We are both body and soul, but I've often just focused on my soul, keeping my attention on the spiritual life. Lately, though, I've started doing more to care for my body and mind. We may not want to acknowledge it, but a lot of us have psychological baggage that we carry around, and this can hinder us in our mission to live like a forgiven, redeemed people. After dragging my feet a bit, I finally sought out a counselor and had some sessions that have given me a solid course and strategy for improving my mental health. This, in turn, has been helping me to love others -- and myself -- better. 3. Reflecting on God's mercy by praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  In the messages revealed to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Jesus describes the incredible wealth of his love and mercy for all of us. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy is a short, powerful prayer that reflects on God's abundant mercy. Several years ago, a friend encouraged me to pray the Chaplet for specific people who I was having challenges with. While this was a challenge at times, I found myself moved to deeper healing and forgiveness. Now, whenever I'm having a particularly difficult time with other people or situations, I try to remember to spend a few minutes praying the Chaplet as I ask God to open my heart to love Him and others more. God made us for more than bitterness and hurt. He calls us to forgive others. St. Paul states that:
"All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice. [And] be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ" (Ephesians 4:31-32).
Let's heed these words and change our lives. Together, let's be an "army of the forgiven."
Copyright 2018 AnneMarie Miller