Advent, as you know, is a time of preparation and as of today, you have just a few days left to reflect on any resolutions you may have made or any inspirations you may have received before Christmas Day arrives. Just as Mary and Joseph prepared themselves to receive the gift of their child Jesus, so we prepare our hearts to receive that same gift, the birth of our Lord and Savior and the promise of eternal life for those who believe.
Part of the preparations are making sure you have gifts to give. In my house, each family member is required to give another family member a gift that wasn’t purchased, along with any gift that was purchased. We consider doing some personal act of love for someone in the family, and my hope as mom, of course, is that it will become a trend that reaches everyone in the family. Forgiveness always seems to be a good idea during this time. Here at CatholicMatch, I recently received an email from a gentleman who has spent some time in intense preparation of his heart for the coming of the King, and it revolved around the same issue; forgiveness. I’d like to share his story with you, one that he, himself, asked to be shared in case someone else out there was suffering alone. He wrote:
When I got married in April 2013, I believed I would never spend another holiday alone for the rest of my life. My belief was devastated four months later, when my wife informed me she enjoyed [someone else] more than me, the man she chose to marry and be her husband. My heart and mind were so devastated that I could not mentally perform my job for my employer… My anger level was totally off the scale.
I packed my rucksack with my survival equipment and went to the forest to get my anger under control. It took me five-and-a-half days of wandering through the woods, meditating, and praying for help to mentally get myself under control.
The answer I received was to forgive my wife. I have prayed every day, many times to forgive my wife… After praying prayers of forgiveness, I felt a huge rock was taken from my shoulders.
What a powerful story, in that the bottom line for this gentleman who had been so devastated was simply to forgive. Oftentimes, when someone needs our forgiveness, it’s easy to believe that forgiving them means they are somehow let off the hook without bearing any of the responsibility for their actions. But that’s not the case at all. Everyone is accountable before God for their actions and it’s up to Him to pass judgement. His command to us is, leave the judgment to Him, and love each other as He has loved us. We need to forgive and repair our relationships. The book of Ephesians drives this point home for us:
Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (Ephesians 4:32).
As you go through the last few days of your own preparations and you search your heart for things you need to change, ask yourself this question: Is forgiveness a gift I could give this year? Is it something you still need to work on? If so, I encourage you to ask God for this grace of being willing to forgive.
Blessed Mother Teresa’s wisdom on the need to forgive is priceless:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
- Mother Teresa’s version of The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith
We can give our family and friends all kinds of gifts at Christmas, but perhaps the one that is most important, forgiveness, is given the least. In addition to spreading Christmas cheer through a sweater or a gift card, give the gift of forgiveness… it has a priceless affect and an eternal value. What a beautiful way to welcome our new born Savior into your heart!