By Father Jake Greiner
In a recent conversation, I was asked about the hardest part of my ministry as a priest. I was immediately able to respond with the following statement: “Experiencing all of the hurt, pain and suffering in families because of the lack of forgiveness.” The latter is true in my experience as a priest, and it also been proven true by experiences in my own family.
It is really difficult to be around someone, whether at church or a family function, if there is any form of conflict. Furthermore, this reality is true with any of our relationships that exist in our lives, especially at our places of work. We miss out on so much when we refuse to resolve conflicts because our minds and hearts are stuck in the past, and we miss out on being present in the moment. We are also not tapping into the fullest of our faith as mandated by Christ himself.
During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the following mandate to his disciples: “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” (MT 5:23-24). Jesus is reminding us that we should never let our sinfulness dominate our lives because it ruins our relationship with God. Jesus is also reminding us that certain events in our lives affect everything else we do. Therefore, the harboring of any type of anger, resentment, pain, frustration, anxiety, or other type of negative emotions will affect the entirety of lives.
It is true that some of us might be better at hiding the effects of all of these negative emotions than others, but no one is unaffected by these realities. I believe that all of us would probably agree that we do not want to stay trapped in the sinfulness and hurt. This is why a regular confession, meaning every other month, is sometimes very helpful in people’s lives. The grace of this particular sacrament will help bring about the full reconciliation that is needed, especially if we need to ask someone else for forgiveness.
I challenge all of us to reconcile now, not at some point in the future, with those we are estranged from in our lives. This Year of Mercy is the perfect time to truly work towards healing relationships that are currently plagued by conflicts. As I have mentioned in previous articles, we have to actively work towards forgiving others for the wrongs that they have done to us, but we also need to make sure that we are also willing to ask for forgiveness. Forgiving does not mean that we are going to forget what people have done to us, but on the other hand we also cannot convince ourselves that the healing, reconciliation and peace that we hope for will just magically happen at some point in the future.
As the prophets mentioned many times throughout the Old Testament, “now is the acceptable time.” It is time we become reconciled with each other. I hope and pray that we will use these remaining days of this Jubilee Year of Mercy to truly work at healing and growing the relationships in our lives.
(Fr. Greiner is pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport)