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 do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. (Col 3:12-14)
Objective: To realize that forgiveness followed by reconciliation is both a gift from God and a gift to one another.
Lent is a time in which we stop to reflect upon those important parts of our life. During this season, we turn ourselves to Christ asking for guidance. This is a time to reconcile with those whom we have offended and those who have offended us. God's mercy will be present in this journey to discover how "Christ is the path to forgiveness and reconciliation."
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
Welcome the participants and ask them to introduce themselves. Start the session with a simple prayer based on the theme of reconciliation, including the biblical quote written above and a bilingual song, such as John Schiavone's "Misericordia Señor" (Psalm 50-51) (Flor y Canto, #523, Oregon Catholic Press).
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
One day, Tom and his father had a verbal confrontation. The discussion started over a simple event; nonetheless, each one decided to bring all of their repressed feelings to light and used them to hurt the other. The voices got louder, the faces turned red, to the point that the father asked his son to leave the house. The boy was leaving when he heard the words: "You are no longer my son! I regret the day you were born!" These words felt like a sharp knife going through the heart of the young boy. Several days passed. The father suffered silently as well as the boy. One day, a friend of the family came to talk to the father. The father welcomed him and asked him to sit. While sharing a cup of coffee, the friend explained the motive of his visit. He asked the father to "forgive the young boy by giving him a second chance." He also asked the father to allow the young boy to return home. The father smiled quietly and informed his friend: "I cannot do what you're asking me, since my son is back. He came last night and we have forgiven each other. He told me how much he loves me and I told him how I could not live without him."
Today we see within society and the church community a need and longing for healing and forgiveness. This seems especially true at the turn of a new millennium. As we look around the world we see both the lights of reconciliation and the shadows of darkness where pain, anger, non-acceptance, and despair abound. These shadows speak of the tremendous cries for forgiveness and reconciliation—for healing within ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our churches and communities. The nightly news and local newspapers paint one story after another of the inability to forgive and heal. Families and communities are torn apart because people refuse to forgive one other and move towards reconciliation.
Every human being has been the victim of some kind of rejection, ridicule, threat, or even violence. Those experiences lead us to lose sight of human kindness and to block our own capacity to trust, love, and forgive. However, forgiveness can cure those wounds and lead us to reconciliation through love. The well-known saying "To err is human, to forgive divine" is a popular way of affirming that we all make mistakes and should be ready to forgive each other in order to live happily. Amidst the daily problems and conflicts that shake our lives, the families and communities that stay together are the ones that recognize their faults and their need for reconciliation—through offering and receiving forgiveness. On the other hand, when there is a refusal to forgive, "our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious" even to God's forgiveness (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2840).
- Can you share an instance in your life when you forgave someone or were forgiven by someone else?
- How does your family practice or not practice forgiveness and reconciliation?
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
The greatest joy of each jubilee year comes from the forgiveness of sin. The Gospel constantly shows Jesus calling people to conversion, curing the sick, and offering the forgiveness of sins. Jesus' healing the man born blind, forgiving the woman caught in adultery, and curing many people, reveal God the Father as the Lord of forgiveness. The parable of the prodigal son shows God as the loving father who forgives and is reconciled to his children, and describes how this reconciliation is the cause of great joy (Lk 15:11-31). Through Jesus Christ, God the Father seeks us out tirelessly to reconcile us to himself. This search begins in the heart of God and reaches its fullness with the Incarnation (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 7). God's desire to forgive us moves us to seek forgiveness and the reconciliation we need in order to forgive and be reconciled to others. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us that the human person is a loving being called to forgive and be forgiven. In the same way that God forgives us, we must open our hearts to divine compassion and forgive those who hurt us. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of reconciliation. For this reason, forgiveness is the high point of Christian prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2844). When we accept our own faults or forgive those who have offended us, our hearts are open to God's grace and we are freed from the oppression of sin and resentment. To forgive from the heart is not easy, but we count on God's infinite mercy to do so. Sometimes, we are unable to get over the hurt and forget the offense, but "the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2843).
- What are some of the situations within your own life or within your family in which forgiveness and reconciliation are necessary? Please explain.
- What are some of the situations within your parish or neighborhood in which forgiveness and reconciliation are necessary? Please explain.
- What are some of the situations and reasons that keep you, your family, and your community from choosing reconciliation and forgiveness?
- In what ways can you make forgiveness and reconciliation a more central part of your personal life and the life of your community?
Putting Our Faith into Action (40 minutes)
Reconciliation is the work not only of individuals, but of the faith community and of society. Conflicts that consume the world are rooted in unresolved wrongs—imagined or real, deliberate or involuntary—that retain their power to provoke discord, hostility, factions, discrimination, violence, and warfare. As Catholic Christians, our faith calls us to be reconciling persons and to be members of a reconciling community. Our baptism incorporates us into the reconciling mission of Jesus Christ. In Christ we are called to forgive one another, to reconcile our differences, and to heal our souls and our world from all our brokenness. The Jubilee Year 2000, as a year of favor from the Lord (Lk 4:9), is also the ideal time to renew our understanding, appreciation, and practice of the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation. In this Sacrament, we confess our sins to Christ and are relieved of their burden. We experience, through the absolution of the priest, Christ's forgiveness and mercy.
- Brainstorm actions and projects that can promote forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing. (One example of such an action is to conduct a reconciliation service to seek and to receive pardon as individuals and as a community.)
- Separate the ideas according to the following levels:
- Actions to be undertaken at the personal level
- Actions requiring the participation of different groups within the faith community
- Actions involving the whole faith community and/or the local civic community
- Actions to be undertaken at the personal level
- Prioritize those actions that are most important and urgent, and develop a plan to implement them.
- To prepare for this Sacrament, remember:
Reconciliation is an act of faith. Christ has revealed to us God's love for us to the point that he took the initiative to forgive our sins.
Reconciliation requires an attitude of humbleness. Only the proud cannot see their mistakes. By recognizing our weakness we are able to repair them.
Reconciliation requires a sincere change of life. By reestablishing our relationship with God and others, we commit ourselves to change our behavior, our attitudes, our ways of life.
Here are some ways to prepare for reconciliation:
Be well prepared.
Dedicate some time to reflect on your life. "Clean your own house."
Accept the pain.
Recognize your faults and accept the feelings this may cause.
Develop a plan of action for a change of life.
Think of the aspect, attitude, behavior, or action that you want to change and take action.
Take your time.
Do not rush yourself. While confessing, allow time to express yourself clearly. Listen.
Make the effort to avoid committing the same mistake….
Establish ways to avoid sin.
Receive the grace of God.
Believe God has forgiven you, because he is Merciful. If you have the opportunity, confess your sins to a priest.
Now that you have reestablished your relationship with God, select an action in which you can promote forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing.
What actions would you take at the personal level?
What actions would you take to enhance your relationship with others?
What actions would you take to improve the life of your community? (i.e. accepting others who are different; helping the more needy; etc.)
Make a list of those actions and invite others to implement them.
Gathering Our Experiences (15 minutes)
- What helped you participate in this session and what made it difficult?
- What did you learn and accept about others?
- What did you learn about your faith?
- How did people make a commitment to implement a course of action?
Celebrating Our Faith as a Community (25 minutes)
- Opening hymn/song
- Invocation or invitation to prayer
- Scriptural reading
- Prayer of thanksgiving or petition
- The Lord's Prayer
- Final prayer and sign of peace
- Closing hymn
For Those Attending WYD 2000
Jesus began his teaching with this message: "Reform your lives. Turn away from sin. Try to be better." This is a message that young adults who will be participating in WYD 2000 need to practice during the preparation for this magnificent event.
In preparing for a life change, we ask each of you to practice the following:
Let go. Relinquish the power struggle against others or against something that already happened. What happened did happen, and there is nothing we can do to change its happening. Therefore, during this time, let go those things that you cannot change.
Heal the wounds. Allow yourself to grieve. Release the pain and allow the grief to flow. Take remedial measures to reduce the pain of whatever situation remains. Look for new things to take the place of what was lost. Help others to remedy their pain. Be compassionate to others, respect their pain, and offer alternatives to seek for new things.
Reconcile. Recreate relationships. Renegotiate with those with whom you have had differences with. Make new commitments, increase your communication, and eventually, celebrate the learning and growth that comes out of forgiveness. Forgiveness can be practiced in your relationship with friends, family members, colleagues, work partners, people in the community, etc.
Remember that reconciliation is complete when trust has been restored.
Each day, maintain a log or journal in which you document how your life is changing daily. Emphasize your self observations in the areas of:
- New behaviors
- New attitudes
- New beliefs
- New actions
- New communication style
- New patterns in my prayers
In the silence of your room, recite the prayer of St. Francis:
Make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me plant love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be comforted as to comfort;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.