Walking into the Sound of Forgiveness

Week of December 6, 2015

What does forgiveness sound like?  What are the words that are used to capture the essence of the need to forgive or the need to be forgiven?  God loves unconditionally and we learn about forgiveness through the ways we experience it in our daily lives.  Forgiveness happens at an early age when we are forced to say we are sorry on the playground or shake hands after a skirmish in the house.  Sometimes we say the words “I am sorry” and don’t even mean them because we are forced to do it.  The greater the gravity of the offense, the deeper the words penetrate the reality of the situation.  There is a different tone when we are saying we are sorry to a police officer who has just pulled us over from speeding than the tone of the words “I did not mean it that way” in the discussion of a husband and wife or girlfriend and boyfriend.

God’s forgiveness is bold.  It is overwhelming and it is concrete.  When Jesus says, “your sins are forgiven”, I would imagine His voice to be calm and kind, loving and direct.  The words in the Sacrament of Reconciliation are profound —“May God grant you pardon and peace”.  It is God doing the forgiving.  The whole text reads like this: “Through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace and I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”  The communication is always centered in what God is doing, yet it begins with a humble heart.

To hear the words of forgiveness we must be willing to be humble and vulnerable.  We must admit we have done something wrong.  In the last year of my mom’s life, while living alone in the Berwyn bungalow, she did something she would later tell us that frightened her and which was stupid on her part.  She made appointments with each of us to tell us the story face to face.  We would not only hear words asking for forgiveness, but we would see the anguish of her embarrassment. She wanted to be forgiven and to do that she needed to tell her story.  One day, after the doorbell rang, she opened the door to a worker who said that he noticed her cement steps needed some repair and he and his partner could help. In order to do that, they needed a bucket with some water to run a test.  My mom let the person into the house. Once inside, he began looking around at what was inside the house, but she followed him. He turned and asked her if she, with her walker, was going to continue to follow him around.  She said yes. She was frightened and prayed to God and to my dad.  Knowing that she was close behind him, he left the house. She immediately locked the door behind him, shaking.  The event really upset her. She knew none of us wanted her to live alone and believed it to be unsafe. She came to all of us to admit we might be right and to admit she made a huge mistake.  Life changed for her after that experience. She became more worried at her judgment and it was later that year that she went home to God.  The sound of forgiveness came when she admitted her mistake and her lack of good judgment.  She needed to tell all of us.  The sound of her honesty made forgiveness easy.

God longs for our honesty and His words of forgiveness are eternal.

Rev. John J. Ouper