Reflection by Mildred J. Reyes
Each day, I wake up with a grateful heart because I know that God is creating something new in me despite being a sinner living in a fallen world tainted by sin. In this season of Lent, we contemplate the passion of Jesus, take time for self-reflection and examination, and we repent and ask for forgiveness. Now, I am not the first nor will I be the last to say that practicing forgiveness is not an easy process—it can be a long and hard one—but it is not impossible, either.
Recently, for the first time and out of pure need, I participated in a silent retreat because I felt that my world—mind, heart, and soul—was overwhelmed with stuff that had reached an unmanageable state, and that there was no strength left in me, or so I believed. I found myself feeling distracted, scattered, and lost, unsure of what lay ahead. As I got in the car, I thought about how I would spend my time in silence. I was prepared with my bagged lunch, journal, coloring pencils, walking shoes, reading materials, and openness and willingness to welcome God’s voice in the midst of utter pandemonium.
Just like we heard about Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem in today’s Gospel, I began my silent retreat grieving the unmanageable overflow of stuff that was imprisoning me from being free. How can we turn our regrets into something good, I wondered? As I walked the vast fields, sat by the pond and watched gentle ripples move across the water’s surface, and listened to the birds chirping, it came to me: “be gentle, forgive yourself, and do not be afraid to wait.”
In that wisdom, I was reminded that Jesus teaches us that unconditional forgiveness and compassion toward penitent hearts requires our participation. It requires waiting, trusting, hoping, and being willing to change. In order to move toward being free, we first need to practice forgiveness by saying “I forgive you, and I ask for forgiveness” over and over to those who have harmed us, to those we have harmed, and then, most important of all, forgiving ourselves. No matter the level of adversity or distractions in our lives, we can trust that God is compassionate, tender, and understanding. She will lighten us with her love, grace, mercy, and redemption, if we but only acknowledge her presence. In forgiving, we free ourselves to move forward, transforming our old selves into the new life that Christ has given us. Then we will begin to see beauty where we didn’t before, and we will become more joyful because we now know God’s infinite love and forgiveness.
Forgiveness is also about the willingness to wait patiently. Our timetable for forgiveness, or dealing with our stuff, is not determined by us, but by divine timing. I draw inspiration from Henri Nouwen, who wrote, “The spirituality of waiting is not simply our waiting for God. It is also participating in God’s own waiting for us and in that way coming to share in the deepest purity of love, which is God’s love.” How will we invite God to gather us under her wings where we can wait patiently, practice forgiving, and love with our whole being?
Follow along with us this Lent season with our daily devotional and engage in discussion in our closed facebook group moderated by The Rev. Dr. Scott Stoner & The Rev. Jan Kwiatowski.
In this group, participants will have a chance to share their responses to the prompts in the daily readings, and also the chance to receive additional material for reflection.