In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus tells Peter a story that reminds me of a conversation I’ve had in my head with my Amazon Prime Visa bill, “Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.” The parable of the Unforgiving Servant is something we can all relate to… happy to receive an abundance of mercy from others and from the Lord but reluctant to hand it out to others. Often it is because our own hands are too full of our own junk.
The First Reading from Sirach begins: Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight.
The ability to forgive someone--to free someone of his or her debt against us--is related to our own ability to live in freedom. Have you hugged Wrath or Anger recently? There is not a lot of love in that hug. Your arms end up very full without much room for anything else. When we are hugging wrath and anger really tight we are experiencing a lack of freedom. When we hug anything too tight we consider that an “attachment” (and we experience a lack of freedom.) The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1740) talks about threats to freedom: The exercise of freedom does not imply a right to say or do everything.… By deviating from the moral law man violates his own freedom, becomes imprisoned within himself, disrupts neighborly fellowship, and rebels against divine truth.
Wow, imprisoned within ourselves. Yeah… that doesn’t sound like we’re going to make much progress in forgiving others, let alone loving others, when we are not free. And as Saint JPII expressed so beautifully in Love and Responsibility:
“Freedom exists for the sake of love.” Saint John Paul
If we have a desire to be more forgiving, we need to take inventory of our own lives and the things that are holding us back from living in freedom. What are those attachments?
Challenge Phase One: Take a Freedom Inventory.
This week the challenge is to ask ourselves some tough questions:
What is keeping me from living in freedom?
Is it a lack of SPIRITUAL FREEDOM? When was the last time I went to Confession? Was it a good Confession? Had I prepared? Am I carrying around unnecessary guilt from a sin that God has already forgiven? Do I doubt God’s love for me? Is it shame? Is it an addiction? Co-dependence? Am I consumed with the past? The choices I’ve made? My imperfections? Foibles? Embarrassing moments? Drinking and Priming?
Is it a lack of MENTAL/EMOTIONAL FREEDOM? Is it fear? Do I worry about what tomorrow will hold? Do I not trust the Lord? Am I consumed by what others think of me? The fear of rejection? The fear of being alone? The fear of not being enough? The fear of being forgotten? The fear of being ordinary? Am I angry? Depressed because of one of the worst football weekends in history?
Is it a lack of PHYSICAL FREEDOM? Are my financial concerns making me uncharitable to others? Am I behind in school? At work? Am I treading water and barely surviving? A lack of time? Am I enslaved to social media? Pornography? My iphone? Am I indebted to another person? Do I owe them money, work, a guest blog post?
Yikes! Now I’m feeling burdened by thinking about my burdens… (Time for phase two.)
Challenge Phase Two: Take one step closer to Freedom.
Just one. That’s a long list of burdens, attachments, wrath hugs… and there are many left off of the list. What is one burden you can work on removing this week? One attachment you can detach from? If it’s a grave sin, then move “go to Confession” to the top of the list. Pick one worry, one anxiety, one distraction, one burden, one attachment that is impeding your ability to live in freedom and cut it out. When our hands are full we cannot embrace the prodigal sons and daughters in our lives. We have to let some little things go… in order to let some big things go! Our ability to love others, to forgive others, to live in charity will only get easier the lighter we feel.
Can’t decide where to start? Take it to prayer! The Catechism (CCC 1742) goes on to remind us that “as Christian experience attests especially in prayer, the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials, such as those we face in the pressures and constraints of the outer world. By the working of grace the Holy Spirit educates us in spiritual freedom in order to make us free collaborators in his work in the Church and in the world.”
Your arms were opened wide on the cross.
Open our arms, helps us to release the things we are holding on to…
Our inability to forgive others… our inability to forgive ourselves.
Remove the attachments, the roadblocks, the burdens, the worries that imprison us.
Help us to grow in freedom. The freedom we can only experience with arms outstretched in love.
As you taught us to do.