Jim and his father had been estranged for a long time.
Even though they lived in the same town, it had been two years since they had spoken to each other and nearly five years since they had seen each other. But when Jim went on a retreat in his parish, one of the leaders encouraged him to try to resolve their conflict. So Jim mustered up the courage to call his dad and say, simply, “I forgive you.” The words immediately pierced his father’s heart, and he forgave his son on the spot. Just like that, their hearts were changed, and the division ended.
When a relationship is marred by unforgiveness, we can say that it is in “negative territory.” But then, when forgiveness happens, the relationship moves from negative territory to neutral territory. There is now nothing to keep it from moving into positive territory—to a place of love, unity, and peace.
The Gift of Reconciliation. So as you are preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent, look especially at your relationships. Are there people whom you need to forgive? Are there situations where you can move from negative to positive territory?
Imagine how pleasing it would be to the Lord if each of us tried to address just one difficult relationship this Lent. Imagine how much grace and peace would flow into the Church as a result of our humble attempts at reconciliation.
The following questions, based on a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (4:8), can help give you some focus as you examine your conscience. May we all open our hearts to the healing power of God’s mercy—and may we all become instruments of his mercy in our relationships!
Whatever is true . . .
–Are there any areas in which I’m not being honest with myself and the Lord?
–Are there ways in which I have been dishonest with those closest to me?
–Am I avoiding my need to deal with a relationship that has been wounded?
Whatever is honorable . . .
–Am I using my gifts and talents for God’s glory?
–Do my goals in life, especially my goals for my relationships, reflect gospel values? Or are they based more on self-centered concerns?
–Do I speak to other people, and about them, in a way that is respectful and straightforward?
Whatever is just . . .
–Have I treated anyone unfairly? Have I engaged in improper deals at work or been untrue to a friend or family member?
–Have I focused more on the flaws of the people around me than on their gifts and blessings?
–Am I trying my best to care for the poor and the unfortunate?
Whatever is pure . . .
–Have I guarded my mind and my eyes against lust?
–Have I acted impurely, either with someone else or with myself?
–Am I treating my husband or wife with honor and respect?
Whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious . . .
–Are there ways in which my witness to the gospel is tarnished, whether by my speech or my actions?
–Have I become caught up in grudges or resentments against someone else?
–Is there someone I need to forgive?
Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)