This journey of faith began by looking at Jesus the person, praying and trying to listen to His voice, and responding to the gentle urgings of the Holy Spirit.
About 4 months ago, I left a charismatic group because of difficulties with the leaders. Being subjected to confrontations in front of the entire group and false accusations were things I found disturbing. When I talked with the leaders no apologies were made and I left feeling heavy-hearted. It did not take long for bitterness and anger to envelop my entire being. I tried to pray but it seemed like no matter how hard I tried, it was fruitless. I hated seeing them in Church. How could they come to Mass, receive the Holy Eucharist, and think this was all okay? The bitterness and anger continued to swell.
With guidance from my family, friends, and spiritual director, I was told to pray for them. Pray for healing, pray for peace, pray for the Spirit. I also prayed for me - for God to change my heart and increase my charity and forgiveness. I found it very difficult to forgive someone who deliberately hurt me, but Jesus calls me to this. I pondered on the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, I prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet, I put all of us on the Altar at Mass. It seemed that no matter how hard I prayed, I was left with a hole of distrust, anger, and bitterness. How do I get rid of this? How can I forgive someone that hurt me so much? And then I look at the Cross, the nails in His hands and feet, the Crown of Thorns on His head, and the Cross He had to bear for my sake. He forgave the soldiers. How? He forgave the elders of His own faith. How? I could not understand how someone could forgive those who were deliberate in their actions. I wanted Him to teach me. Teach me to forgive. Teach me charity.
There are some who say 'be careful what you pray for.' I on the other hand say, 'be thankful for what you pray for.'
About two weeks ago, Sunday, I was sitting with some friends at Mass. Their 6 year-old was sitting with me. She would ask questions during the celebration and I would answer them as honestly and simply as I could. I explained about the Consecration, what the Priest was doing, and how God and the Holy Spirit changed the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Jesus. What happened next was unexpected.
As we knelt for the remainder of the Eucharistic Prayer, I pondered on the explanation, praying for a change of heart, for God to take anything in me that was not of Him and place it at the foot of the Cross. I then asked God to place the parts of Him that I needed in me to fill the void. A deep sorrow swept over me. Holding back tears, as the Priest lifted the Consecrated Body and Blood to God, I lifted my eyes to Jesus on the Cross, behind the Altar. I had to forgive them. In order for me to grow in Christ, I had to move on...but how? I needed help. I had the model right in front of me...literally directly in front of me, on the Altar. But, I thought, He is God, He had no sin, He had direct contact with God. Me, on the other hand, am a simple sinner, incapable of goodness. Inside I was sobbing. We came to Communion and as I uttered, 'Lord I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed,' I understood what this meant. I was so unworthy to receive our Lord. Tears filled my eyes as I finished the sentence. He could make me clean...like the woman who touched His cloak thought. She knew who Jesus was. She knew He was God. Jesus, clean me, please. Enable me to receive You.
I continued praying. I went to Adoration on Monday night and joined in prayer with the Cenacle. I also finished Scott Hahn's book Ordinary Work, Extraordinary Grace. I decided to put some of the Opus Dei beliefs into action and dedicated the next day to God for healing and peace. Wednesday, I saw them at a function and a bitterness swept over my entire body as I saw them enter the room. Please God, not now. Not today. I couldn't face them. The anger was not gone..it had festered so deep inside that I had just scraped the top off the past Sunday. There was more, so much more.
I went home, visited with relatives who came into town, and then went to bed to pray. Please God, teach me how you forgave your captors. I prayed the 'Our Father' and I couldn't finish it. I was stuck on 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those...'. If I wouldn't forgive them, then God would forgive me in the same way! This is not what I desire. I want God, I want to live. Please God, teach me to live in freedom, Your freedom. I'm tired of this bitterness. I'm tired of this pain. Please take it away. Take it all away.
Love them as I love them.
See them through My eyes. They are also my children.
That was not what I expected to hear, but it was what I needed to hear. I had been praying for them, but had I been praying for them with love?
This Sunday, a guest Priest celebrated the early morning Mass, a very holy Priest and one that I have met before. His homily was on faith. Keeping the faith through trials and tribulations, and focusing on God throughout. Thank you, God! God never said it would be easy. In fact, Jesus did not have it easy. But I am to 'Love one another as I have loved you' (John 13:34). This was Jesus' new Commandment to His Apostles. It was no longer 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' but 'Love one another as I have loved you.' Christ asks us to love each other as HE loved us (and still loves us).
I continue this journey of faith and love, and as I continue to ponder on this new Commandment, especially at the Consecration at Mass, I believe that the heart-hole is being healed and filled with God's love. As I continue to pray for them with love, I noticed that the bitterness and anger dissipate. I have a long way to go. Only God knows how deep I let this into my soul, but He is the only one who can heal me. Through God and continued prayers, I will finally reach the goal of being one with Him who made me.