It’s Forgiveness Sunday…
Forgive me, a sinner.
God forgives, and I forgive.
Every year we bow before each other with these words on our lips. We exchange the kiss of peace with friends, family, and even strangers.
Often on Forgiveness Sunday, it’s easy to wonder… Why do we ask forgiveness of someone we have not not offended, or offer forgiveness to someone who has made no offense?
We offend this Divine Love when we build walls around ourselves and fail to encounter and recognize Christ in each other.
“The Church reveals to us that there are much subtler ways of offending Divine Love. These are indifference, selfishness, lack of interest in other people, of any real concern for them—in short, that wall which we usually erect around ourselves, thinking that by being “polite” and “friendly” we fulfill God’s commandments.
The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for one minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong, makes us experience that encounter of one child of God with another, of one person created by God with another, makes us feel that mutual “recognition” which is so terribly lacking in our cold and dehumanized world.
On that unique evening, listening to the joyful Paschal hymns, we are called to make a spiritual discovery: to taste of another mode of life and relationship with people, of life whose essence is love. We can discover that always and everywhere Christ, the Divine Love Himself, stands in the midst of us, transforming our mutual alienation into brotherhood.”
How is the way we relate to each other on a day to day basis is wrong?
This excerpt from the introduction to the booklet, Forgiveness Sunday Vespers says regardless “offense” to our neighbor, we are all guilty of offending Divine Love.
Read these words again: “The rite of forgiveness is so important precisely because it makes us realize – be it only for a minute – that our entire relationship to other men is wrong”
Separation is the culprit of this offense. We offend Divine Love when we are content with living lives that are separate from each other. Today, it is far too easy to build walls around ourselves, or around groups of people “different” than us. These walls keep us from experiencing and sharing Christ’s Divine Love.
Trying to overcome this offense, which we have grown numb to in today’s society, is what inspires our approach to living and serving, both in the church and in our surrounding communities.
In order for us to serve and have that service become something meaningful in our lives or the lives of those we serve, we must break down these walls of separation.
How do we embrace Divine Love, instead of offending it? Here are a few tips to consider:
Strive to learn instead of assuming.
Our assumptions can lead us astray if we do not take the time to learn about the reality of a situation. It is easy to look at someone begging on the street and assume that they are too lazy to find a job. This however, when we take the time to learn about homelessness and employment, the reality is between 40 and 60 percent of the homeless population participates in either part- or full-time work throughout the year. Many people experiencing homelessness don’t feel comfortable begging on the streets, and those that do are still worthy of our gifts and time.
Don’t fix your neighbor, Serve them.
Has someone ever come to you with a problem and your immediate reaction is to spew out advice or take aggressive action in a failed attempt to fix their problem for them? When someone is in need, fixing isn’t always the right approach for a few reasons. First – it assumes that the person you’re trying to fix is broken. Second – it assumes that the “fixer” is not broken. The truth is, we are all broken and in need and must approach each other with unconditional love and the broken heart of a servant.
View life with a compassionate LENS.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:37. Check out our blog on stereotypes vs. compassionate thinking. In every encounter, we have to challenge ourselves to reach out with compassion instead of judgment. When we judge others, we are automatically separating ourselves from them. If we recognize that each of us is made in the image and likeness of Christ, it becomes clear we are made for communion, not separation!
Written By: Sarah Arnold, Communications & Grants Manager