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 have each person realize the importance of forgiveness and through the process receive reconciliation through Christ, which is a gift from God to each and every one of us.
We are called to be forgiven and to forgive. During this Lenten season, we are asked to review our way of life for we are to use the contrast of Christ himself especially reflected in his passion and death. Life itself is a direct reflection of life and death. We live the passion of Christ throughout our own lives. When we choose to act as Christ, we choose life. When we choose to act in earthly ways, we choose death. As we reflect on our own ways, what are the Stations of the Cross for us? We have been forgiven for whatever we have done if only we ask to be forgiven.
During this special Jubilee Year, we are asked to be reconciled with our brothers and sisters. We are asked to forgive and to be forgiven. The grace of God will be upon us in this process of reconciliation. All our acts have either helped create the Kingdom of God among us or they have helped to destroy his presence among us. We are all called to be healed by Christ himself. We are "wounded healers" that need to be forgiven and to be reconciled, but we also can be people that heal and forgive others.
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
We are to welcome each person in the meeting and invite each person to welcome others. Begin with a prayer in which the theme of reconciliation and forgiveness is noted. As part of the prayer, each person will state his or her name so as an active participant in the prayer. We are all called personally to forgive and to reconcile. Galatians 5:13-26 or Colossians 3:5-17 may be used. An appropriate song may be used like "Much Afraid" from Jars of Clay.
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
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 each 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).
- In small groups, each individual is asked to share one instance in which they felt they were forgiven. How did it feel to be forgiven?
- Each participant shares one instance when they forgave someone. Describe the situation and how it felt to forgive another person.
- Discuss how forgiving and being forgiven helps us become better Christians.
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
The greatest joy of each jubilee year comes from the emphasis on forgiveness of sin. The gospel constantly shows Jesus calling each one of us to conversion, conversion from death to life. Christ heals us from the sickness of the world, and offers forgiveness. He also asks us to reconcile with our brothers and sisters, father and mother, friends and enemies. Jesus heals each of us as he healed the blind man. Sometimes, through our own blindness, we do not see or want to see the reality of the situation or to recognize that we are wrong. Christ forgave the woman caught in adultery. Sometimes we are caught up in our own "adulteries." God is constantly calling us to conversion and as we receive forgiveness, we are healed.
Very clear to us is the parable of the prodigal son, which shows God as the loving Father who forgives and is then reconciled to his children, and which describes how this reconciliation is the cause of great joy (Luke 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. God himself becomes human through Jesus Christ. Through his life on earth as a human, Jesus brings God's love and forgiveness to each of us. Christ gives his life so that we may have life. It is in this very process of moving from death to life that we experience forgiveness and reconciliation. 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 or anything that hurts others. 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 intercessions, including the forgiveness of ourselves which often is not forgiven. Through the healing process, we become closer to God and to God's grace.
- Each person prepares a time line of his or her own life. This time line includes key moments of their life. Mark three or four moments in which reconciliation was necessary in life. Note the feelings that followed after each particular situation.
- Have you noted any particular times when you have not felt that you were forgiven?
- In small groups, discuss ways in which we experience reconciliation as a community. What moments and elements do we experience every week that help each of us forgive and be forgiven?
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 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 Christ's forgiveness and mercy.
Our daily life is a continual process of change and conversion. We make choices every moment of our lives. We can choose life which can build communion, love, and community. Or we can choose death, moments in which we think only of ourselves without considering others. By not choosing life, we hurt others and destroy God's love and therefore, destroy life itself. As we proceed in our pilgrimage to the Jubilee Year 2000, please recall the challenge of going through the door of conversion and reconciliation. Going through this door is choosing a new life in Christ — a life of love and giving and one in which we forgive and are forgiven.
- 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.
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
We are called to Rome to pass through the "Door." This Lenten season calls us to prepare for our journey, which is at hand. We need to be prepared for our journey. We need to come together as members of a Christian community and examine our lives as to where we are in our journey. Are we clearly a seed of God's love and grace among our friends, family, and society? We are called in this Jubilee Year to become disciples of Christ who bring forth the Kingdom and the Reign of God. We are to show that we have joined Jesus Christ through His passion, death and resurrection. Our life journey is walking through the passion and death of Jesus Christ believing in the resurrection. We can help in the forgiveness and reconciliation of our friends, family members and those around us. We are yeast, called to spread hope in the world. Have we become the yeast in the society?
- Where do I need to experience reconciliation before I leave for Rome? Whom do I need to forgive?
- How might I be an Ambassador of reconciliation while on pilgrimage?