Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family Forgiveness and the T

Family, Forgiveness and the Prodigal Son Monday Morning #40

Women of Faith:

Spending the last several days with our family in Colorado and holding our beautiful new granddaughter, Karolina, have reminded me of the importance of family togetherness and the constant forgiveness being part of a family requires. Sunday’s gospel story of the prodigal son, reminded me of how often a family must accept its members weaknesses, and be ready to offer forgiveness with compassion and understanding, even in the smallest happenings in a short day. Christ’s death and resurrection was the ultimate love and forgiveness story because he gave His life to forgive my sins, each one, including those that I repeat and those that I am not ready to ask forgiveness for.

Lk 15:1-3, 11-32 “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me (deserving).’ … the younger son … squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation….Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger…..”’
So he got up and went back to his father…. his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion….His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘….Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again;
he was lost, and has been found.’…(unconditional forgiveness).
Now the older son… became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him. He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you… yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’
The father said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

I have been fortunate to have an extended family who has shown love, forgiveness, acceptance and compassion for each other and for each others faults. Those are the traits that Jesus is teaching in the story of the Prodigal son and the traits that make marriages and families bind together. Like every person though I have not been immune to the fallout from unforgiveness and unacceptance which has led to family grudges, bitterness and divorce. I am saddened each time I hear of another friend or family member who’s relationship is being torn apart. I truly believe in Pope John Paul’s statement, “as goes the family, so goes the community. And as goes the community, so goes the world.”

Marriage statistics outside of God’s sacrament show that 1 out of every 2 marriages currently ends in divorce. Marriages with the grace of God and regular church attendance show less than 1 out of every 250 marriages end in divorce. And add regular, daily prayer together with your spouse and the statistics change to less than 1 in every 1100 ending in divorce. What an amazing multiplication of how God’s influence and love in our lives strengthens our marriages and our families. (By the way, it doesn’t make any difference which church denomination you belong to—these are ALL church statistics, not a specific denomination).

Think about it another way, without our parents marriage, and their parents marriage and all those grandparents before, none of us would be here today. Put a break in any of God’s unions of the “two becoming one” and we are no longer a part of this conversation. (Compound those statistics with the abortion statistic of 1 out of 4 conceptions ending in abortion, and just being a child of God with the opportunity for love and forgiveness becomes statistically small).

In turn I would not be experiencing the joy and happiness received by being able to spend time with my family and my new grandchild if somewhere along the way, many, many times, family members had not forgiven and accepted the Prodigal sons in their lives.

So how does marriage and family life fit with the story of the prodigal son? We are all sinners, just like the youngest son, and come home to our spouse to ask for forgiveness, many times, sometimes as often as daily or hourly. We also must be like the parent, like the father, ready to give forgiveness and accept our loved ones faults.

Why then is it so difficult to be like the father and the youngest son in the story? Why is it sometimes so difficult to ask for forgiveness and acceptance? And why is it so difficult to accept and forgive the person/s we love the most when they ask our forgiveness?

The difficulty comes because we set our expectations for love higher for those we love the most, we build a circle, a chain of thinking that we deserve love and forgiveness like the older son thinks he deserves, and the more we deserve something the higher our expectations become.

When instead we should be like the prodigal son and the father and build that circle, that chain, in love with compassion, and forgiveness. In prayer by asking for God’s grace we should build a chain of continual forgiveness, asking and receiving forgiveness, not because we deserve it, but because we accept and forgive the faults of those we love, just as Christ did for us on the cross. Adding love, acceptance and forgiveness to our family circle tightens the circle, just as Jesus’s loving arms are tightened around us.

How often must we forgive, and accept? In Matthew 18:22 Jesus instructed us that we must forgive “as many as seven times seventy times” our wrongdoings. That really means we must forgive continually.

How many times am I like the older brother in the story, holding a grudge, building a circle of unforgiveness? Am I unwilling to forgive and accept the “unfairness” of a situation because I think I should be “loved more” than another. Do I become jealous of someone else’s good fortune because it has come at my own expense? Or am I willing to accept that good fortune is God’s will and someone elses’ blessing, because I already have enough of my own blessings?

Can I be more like the prodigal son’s parent, willing to accept a request for forgiveness from my spouse or someone close to me? Am I willing to have compassion for the wrongdoings of others, even if I have been hurt in the process? Do I strive to act like Jesus when he died on the cross, ready to sacrifice everything, to bring joy and love into the circle and bring love “back into the flock?” Do I realize that forgiving the sinfulness of my spouse or another family member is the same act of forgiveness Jesus tells about in this story and the same act of forgiveness he gave for us on the cross? Do I seek to create a household honoring God thru unconditional and repetitive forgiveness?

Can I strive to also be like the youngest son, willing to realize my sinfulness, ready to ask forgiveness, ready to become a servant to the family member I have wronged. Can I learn be like the young son, willing to accept less, because with love, all things are possible?

Dear God, Thank you for your love within my marriage. I realize it is what creates a family and forgiveness and acceptance are what makes a family a stronger circle. Help me to be like the prodigal son, ready to seek forgiveness of those I love. And help me to be like the prodigal son’s parent, ready to accept “I’m sorry and I want to come home” just as you do each time I sin. Thank you for the prodigal son’s reminder to me that I don’t need it all, I only need love, your love and my families love. Help me to seek love and forgiveness like the prodigal son; and to be open and ready to accept and give forgiveness with the compassion of the prodigal father. Amen.

Blessings, Charlotte

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