By Lucy Johnson
I am not a person who usually holds a grudge. I like to think that I can ask for forgiveness or forgive others when needed. However, after the deaths of my parents, I was faced with a situation unlike any other I had experienced. For many reasons, I found myself unable to forgive one of my siblings. I took this hurt first to the person with no result. Then I turned to prayer and finally to confession.
For about five months, I brought to confession my sin of being unable to forgive my sister. I continued to struggle with this issue, and it was affecting my whole outlook on life as well as my health. Meanwhile, our Archdiocese was hosting the second annual WINE Conference. Although I was staffing a booth at the conference, I took time during it to go to confession. As I confessed my now persistent sin, the priest told me to pray for “the grace of forgiveness.” He explained that I wasn’t able to forgive on my own but that I needed special help—the grace that only God can give.
During this time, I was also a participant in a WINE book club. Coincidently, the book we were reading was called “The Grace of Yes” by Lisa Hendey. The next meeting after the WINE conference, I shared with my small group my difficulty with forgiveness, the priest’s comments, and the fact that I had to go back to my hometown to be with this sister the following weekend.
My small group assured me of their prayers and support, and I felt them. I prayed for the grace of forgiveness the whole six hour car ride home. When I walked into my childhood house, my anxiety left. For the first time, I felt forgiveness toward my sister. I was able to move beyond the hurt.
Which brings us to today’s readings. In the Gospel of Matthew, as directed, I went first to my sister, who didn’t listen. Then I went to the Church and confession. But it was “where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst” that resonated with me. I felt my WINE sisters praying with me for the grace to forgive when I met my sister that day, and my prayers were answered.
In some ways, this Gospel seems confusing. If a person refuses reconciliation, we are instructed to treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. What does that mean? The answer is in today’s second reading; we are to love one another, even our sisters or those who do us wrong. Grudges, anger, hurt, resentment must be replaced with love.
Perhaps there is someone in your life whom you need to forgive but are having difficulty doing that. Pray for the grace of forgiveness. I find myself praying more and more for graces rather than for solutions. In addition to the grace of forgiveness, I pray for the grace of love, the grace of acceptance, the grace of yes….
About the Author:
Lucy Johnson lives in St. Paul, MN with her husband, Jeff. She has 7 children 7 grandchildren. Past-President of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women. (ACCW 2013-2015), Pharmacist, A “Martha” working on her “Mary”.