The Gift of Forgiveness

I hate admitting it, but there are several stories in the Bible that I find hard to like.

This weekend’s Gospel reading about the Prodigal Son is one.

Turns out, the reason I’m having trouble with it is that I’m hearing it too literally.

I’m the first child in my family. The one who’s tried to “be good,” “be responsible,” “be conscientious.”

The one who’s generally done as she’s been told.

So when I hear of this Prodigal Son squandering his inheritance, then begging to come back into the family, I nod my head.

Figures, I think disdainfully.

And when the father throws a party for that wayward son, what’s that about??

Forgiveness.

It’s a lesson we need to understand symbolically.

Jesus wasn’t talking about birth order; He was pointing out that we all need to be forgiven, and the Father in Heaven is willing to forgive.

Aren’t we all a little like that Prodigal Son?

God has given us countless gifts, yet we squander them shamelessly. Or we decide we’d rather have a gift that somebody else has instead of those we’ve got.

We try Him and test Him, seeing how far we can push.

We’re all like the older son, too.

Feeling like we’ve somehow “earned” God’s forgiveness. Living with anger and resentment when things don’t go our way, when we see others getting “more” or “better” than we have.

As if God giving someone else a gift takes something away from us!

Our priest said somebody did a survey of the medical profession and learned that only 10 percent of people’s illnesses are actually caused by disease. The rest, doctors say, stem from anger, fear, and resentment — emotions that medicine can’t cure.

Do you remember the movie The Karate Kid?

When Mr. Miyagi asks the bullied young Daniel why he wants to learn karate, Daniel replies, “Is revenge a good enough reason?”

Wise old Mr. Miyagi points out, “Then you’d better dig two graves, one for yourself, one for the other guy.”

Mr. Miyagi, you see, knew what Jesus was trying to tell us — that anger hurts us more than it hurts others.

That forgiveness is necessary for peace and health.

So instead of seeing myself as the “wronged” first son, I need to realize I’ve been “prodigal,” too.

And humbly accept God’s forgiveness.

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25 thoughts on “The Gift of Forgiveness

  1. Interesting statistic about disease. I’ve heard resentment is suppose to be especially harmful. Forgiveness the key to peace and health. You’ve given us lots to think about today!

    • I hadn’t really thought about that statistic, Katybeth, but it’s so true. Not that all of us should be 100% healthy all the time, but letting some of those destructive emotions go seems a good release to me. If it comes down to hanging on to anger or letting it go, it’s better for our health to let it go. Thanks for your thoughts!

  2. Debbie, you have shared a PLETHORA of so much truth in this post!

    “As if God giving someone else a gift takes something away from us!”

    You are sooooo right! And that’s exactly where I think resentment and envy come from because people somehow feel that there’s not enough to go around. And that if someone has more, it takes away from them.

    “The rest, doctors say, stem from anger, fear, and resentment — emotions that medicine can’t cure.”

    And I totally believe that because of the ‘energy’ work that I do. Much illness stems from unhealthy emotions that have been harbored for years and years, which can eventually cause dis-ease within the body.

    “that anger hurts us more than it hurts others.”

    A-MEN!

    Excellent post! And thank you for sharing it!

    X

    • So often children feel that way when another baby comes along — they must be taught that love multiplies, not divides.
      I’m going to have to re-read some of your “energy work” posts, Ron. Anything we can do to free ourselves of destructive, lingering emotions seems like a good thing to me. As we all know, Life is too short to spend it angry, bitter, and resentful.
      As always, thanks for reading and commenting. I don’t usually get “preachy,” but this subject kind of hit me in the face and I had to share!

    • Your words humble me, Kathy. I tried hard to pay attention to this sermon because I knew I was seeing the Prodigal Son story all wrong! Thanks for visiting and for your encouragement!

  3. You know, I’ve always found one of the most interesting and fruitful ways of dealing with stories like this is to see each character as representing a part of me. The father, the sons, even the party-goers waiting to see what happens between the father and the kids – there’s a little of all of them in me, and if I acknowledge that, I can begin to absorb the lessons in their fullness.

    A good post – I appreciated it.

    • Thank you, Linda. So much, I fear, is lost in the translation. We tend to take things at their word, forgetting that Jesus spoke in parables. Stories. And those lessons were meant to show us how we each are failing to live God’s way while pointing us in the direction to do that. Good suggestions — I think that’s what I meant to say, only you said it much better!

  4. Awesome post, Debbie! I think it’s a normal tendency to see others’ actions as not deserving of forgiveness (like the prodigal son) and it’s so easy to overlook our own shortcomings. Depending on the wrong, forgiveness isn’t an easy thing to practice. And, often when I think I’ve forgiven, I find out that the resentment comes back and I have to let it go again. The father of the prodigal son is a wonderful example of forgiveness. To not hold resentment in that instance is truly amazing.

    • So true, Janna. Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. And, while we say we’ve forgiven, if we haven’t forgotten, can we really claim we have? To completely forgive when wronged is a godly thing to do! Thanks for reading, and I’m glad it touched you enough to leave your thoughts!

    • I was always told that when you point an accusatory finger at someone, THREE are pointing back at you! Kinda says the same thing, don’t you think? You ought to rent The Karate Kid some time — it’s a good one. Domer liked it because he, too, was a karate kid!!

  5. Debbie, my daughter and I were just talking about forgiveness last night. And we realized that sometimes it’s ourselves we find hardest to forgive. Not for any big thing, but all the little things we didn’t get to, the things we squander (time, dollars, relationships, gratitude).

    And speaking of the prodigal son story, I have a prodigal son myself. My oldest even. My younger son has always been a joy and done what’s right and made me proud – while my oldest has been in trouble more than once, struggled with addiction, squandered so many gifts (gifted and talented program, high school leader, Eagle Scout, varsity football and varsity basketball player) and now bartends and has little ambition and a child out of wedlock. I know that it’s a very difficult balance and burden as a parent of a child who is “lost.” And knowing that my youngest has always been here, but that all of us will feel great joy and want to celebrate if the oldest finds his way back. One thing I’ve taken from the prodigal son story – is that the father didn’t leave his home to go looking for the son – he let him, allowed him, the growth and self-knowledge to find his way home when he was ready and realized his folly. We do them harm when we rescue and don’t allow them the self-confidence of working through their mistakes. Especially when we know we taught them better. Many, many times I’ve prayed and have always received the answer in my heart that as much as I love my son, God loves him even more and has not forgotten him. I trust he’ll put angels in his path to help.

    • Barb, your story brought tears to my eyes. I’ve heard from other parents of “prodigals” that rescuing is the worst thing one can do, but oh, how hard it must be to let go and let live. It’s especially heart-wrenching to hear how gifted your oldest was and how little he valued his gifts. Please keep praying for your son, and I’m sure he will find his way. As you say, God loves him even more than you do and He will never forget him or leave him abandoned. I believe in angels — and I’m certain God has a plan for your son. Don’t give up believing!

  6. So true, so very true. As I read your words, I could see myself in both roles; the firstborn, angry son and the prodigal son. I also remembered times I wanted to hold onto anger and grudges and how, once I let them go, it didn’t matter so much anymore what it was that caused that anger. It does feel good to let go and forgive.

    • That’s just one thing I love about being Catholic, the privilege of going to Confession. Sure, sometimes it’s hard admitting our faults, but it feels soooo good when you hear that you’re forgiven. Thanks for stopping by, Terri!

    • Those are high words of praise, coming from you, Tanya! Thank you so much. You and plenty of others do the preaching so much better than I do, but this was just inside me and it had to come out. Thanks for reading!

    • Your words humble me, Tricia. Thank you so much for the reminder that God is always watching and directing — all we need do is be open to the path!

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