Friday of the first week of Lent, 2023
Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
I always felt like forgiveness depended on trust. In order to forgive someone, you first had to be able to trust that they will not offend you again.
Maybe this was why both trusting and forgiving never came easy to me.
In college I worked at a Catholic Conference & Service Camp that traveled to different states each week. One morning, I was asked to give a witness talk about forgiveness. In my talk I was honest: forgiveness was not easy, and I still could not bring myself to forgive a family member who had refused to see me, even as a young child.
After the morning session ended, a man came running up to the stage to talk to me. “Active forgiveness!” He shouted. “You need active forgiveness!”
I listened as he shared about how his wife abandoned his family, but he chose to actively forgive. His advice was you cannot wait for the feelings to be there, you cannot wait to feel like you can trust or forgive someone, you must take the very first step and say out loud, “I forgive you.”
That was hard advice, but it absolutely changed my life.
In the Gospel reading today Jesus tells us to do the same. Leave everything you are doing, and go seek reconciliation first. Even if you don’t want to. Especially if you don’t want to.
In order for us to do our jobs well we must actively forgive. Serving those in need can too easily harden our hearts. If you find yourself burnt out or frustrated with the causes of our clients’ conflicts, take a step towards active forgiveness. You can’t wait for the day when you’ll “feel” like forgiving societal causes of poverty. It will probably never come. But you must trust (yes, trust) that genuine, healthy solutions can form after forgiveness.
Then you can bring your gift of case management or advocacy or food or prayer or empowerment or citizenship or adoption or housing or education right up to the altar because, as Jesus says, gift giving must come after reconciliation.
Devyn Buschow is the Parish Relations Program Manager at Catholic Charities Dallas, a Georgia Bulldog, and a Hockey Mom.