Walking Our Faith: To move forward, first we must forgive
Tuesday morning mass at St. Mary’s might be my favorite. After mass has concluded around 8:40 a.m., we have adoration of the blessed sacrament in the sanctuary until 9 a.m. Adoration is a time for silent prayer, meditation, reading sacred or spiritual material, all of which hopefully leads us into a conversation with God.
In our frenetic and noisy lives, perhaps this is the only way to sit still long enough to hear the “still small voice” of God.
This week 20 of us remained after mass, scattered about the sanctuary. There is no self-conscious looking at others. It truly is a time of individual communion with God. Even Father Boguslaw joins us in the pews.
That morning I was wrestling with the notion of personal guilt and accepting God’s forgiveness. Since my mother’s passing in March, I have replayed our final weeks together and wondered if there was anything I could have done to make her more comfortable. Did I tell her how much I loved her enough times? Did I apologize for all the mistakes I’d made?
On Tuesday morning, I reflected on why asking for forgiveness from my mother for my shortcomings or from God for my sins as many times as I have. It still doesn’t feel sufficient — even though Christ’s life, death and resurrection is a demonstration of love and forgiveness for everyone, even me. But why do I ruminate on my guilt?
The gospel reading at mass that morning was the familiar retelling of Christ walking on water amid a storm, Peter stepping out of the boat to go to meet Christ and Peter faltering when his faith falters. As he slips beneath the waves, Christ reaches out and lifts him up and admonishes Peter for allowing his fear to overcome his faith.
On the night before Christ faces his death, he says that Peter will deny him three times, and Peter swears he will not. Yet Peter does in fact deny Christ three times and then runs off to save himself.
Imagine the guilt that Peter must have felt and the shame that must have consumed him when he then saw Jesus resurrected, standing on the beach inviting Peter and his other disciples to join him for breakfast.
In this first meeting since Peter’s betrayal, instead of condemning him, Christ asks Peter the most important question, “Do you love me, Peter?” Peter replies in the affirmative. Christ repeats this question three times and each time Peter grows more anxious, wondering why his first reply wasn’t enough.
To consider how remarkable Christ’s act of forgiveness was, we must remember that Christ had chosen Peter to build Christ’s church on Earth, the same man who had betrayed him just days earlier. How could he trust that Peter would not fail him again? And yet, Christ knew that this exchange was necessary for Peter to move forward.
This is the same stalwart love and forgiveness that Christ extends to each of us.
This exchange between Jesus and Peter gave me a consolation that I want to share with you: to move forward to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives, we must accept not only God’s love for us but God’s forgiveness of our past mistakes.
God will continue to ask us to receive this love and forgiveness until we finally do, and then and only then, will we be free to move forward. Free of the burden of guilt for our mistakes and free to exchange our preoccupation with the past with energy to begin God’s purpose for our future.
According to the Gospel of John, 21:15-17:
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said. “You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord. You know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.”
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking Our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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