Wednesday, April 24, 2019

"Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

When someone wrongs us, we either fight back, keep grudges, withdraw from them, feel victimized, persecuted and alienated.  Much worse, we develop chronic stress, anxiety and depression.

I am Chinka Besinga-Sarmiento. Wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. I’m an educator and a lay missionary; an advocate for the renewal of the family and the defense of life. In my life, I’ve experienced my own share of hurts, pain and persecution. But you wouldn’t believe it if you just knew me from afar.  

From the outside, people see how blessed I am. I’m not saying that’s not true. I have been blessed from the day I was born. I have a complete family, with parents who worked really hard to provide for my sisters and I. We had a roof over our heads, went to good schools, had proper meals provided for us and had a little more than just the basic. I am grateful for all those and wanted nothing but to share my blessings with others. Perhaps, this is why I found myself living a life in the ministry of giving.  I’ve always felt it was my duty and responsibility to think about others’ needs before my own. I know there’s nothing wrong with that but because of this, I realized I had forgotten to take care of myself.

Under the surface, I experienced so many storms and had my own fair share of pain. My struggles have mostly been emotional. Deeply caused by wounds that I didn’t realize I had and therefore was never able to tend to, while I was growing up. All of my hurts, triggered by my experiences with people who intentionally or unintentionally hurt me, misjudged me or concluded the wrong things about me; people who have looked down on me for being ‘too young,’ ‘too eager,’ or ‘too idealistic;’ who have scoffed at me for trying too hard, for insisting on things that they are not used to, for shaking things up, for ruffling feathers, for asking too many questions. I’ve had a lot of hits and misses but throughout all of them, I’ve continued to pray, asking for the Lord’s guidance and for Mama Mary’s intercession to help purify my intentions and to stay focused on what He wants me to do. 

Despite all that, the emotional pain caused by hurts coming from both inside and outside, soon manifested physically and mentally, until I reached a place wherein I could no longer see the bright side of things.  Thank God, there was still a handful of people whom I could turn to, who offered encouragement and affirmation. Because of their help, I came to a turning point in my life and decided to be more aggressive in my search for healing and peace – a peace that passes all understanding and that can only come from the heart of Jesus.

I sought help from people whom I knew could walk me through what I was experiencing. I asked for prayers and deliverance for the spiritual oppression that was obviously causing me to focus on my pain and not on what Jesus was calling me to do. I withdrew from the noise of the world, from those who triggered my hurts.  I sought refuge in front of the Blessed Sacrament and would sometimes spend hours just basking in His presence.  I went on a silent retreat and focused on the Word of God and took the time to reflect on His message for me. Some thought I was being stubborn, proud and unforgiving.  But during that time, I just wanted to drown out the distractions of the world, tune in to the voice of God and start my process of self-care and healing.

Would you like to know what His message was for me? He said that we each carry our own crosses.  This just happened to be mine.  But it doesn’t mean I should give up.  It meant, I should keep pressing on.  Christ was mocked, betrayed and humiliated and He was God’s own Son.  He was trampled on, persecuted and crushed until He bled. And yet, the first words that He uttered when He was crucified on the cross were, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” Indeed, HE is GOD because His words transcend human capacity and understanding . What is He teaching me? 

He forgives because it is a SACRIFICE, to go beyond human capacity and to stretch it to something more beautiful and more divine.
He forgives because He HEALS. It means letting go of pride and being humble enough
to allow His mercy to flow through us.
He forgives because it is GRACE that comes from above and therefore when we forgive, 
we also receive that special grace. 
He forgives because it is the PERFECT solution to our IMPERFECTIONS. God 
moulds us with His perfect love to drive out our imperfections, until we are worthy to be 
with Him in eternal happiness.
He forgives because He LOVES. Learning to forgive is learning to accept God’s love, 
sharing it with our neighbour and having enough love for ourselves as well.  

St. Teresa of Avila pointed out that in The Lord’s Prayer, the word, ‘love,’ is not mentioned.  However, it mentions the word, ‘forgive’ twice:
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
To forgive is to love.  To ask forgiveness means being ready also to forgive with a love that comes only from Him – merciful, compassionate, sincere, unconditional and perfect. 

Matthew 5:48 says, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

We are not expected to be perfect, but we are encouraged to strive to achieve a perfect kind of love.  Our own humanness, our pride, our fear of feeling vulnerable, of admitting our own mistakes, failures and weaknesses will keep us away from the heart of Jesus, where perfect love resides. But if we forgive as God forgives, we can be made perfect in His love.

1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..."

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”  First of all, Jesus Christ asks God, in our behalf, to forgive those who have wronged us. Having an unforgiving heart can keep Christ from entering it. Secondly, He also asked God to forgive us for the wrongs we have caused ourselves.  Sometimes, it is our own unforgiveness of ourselves that keeps us from receiving His love.  And lastly, He asks God to forgive us, despite our inability to forgive those who have wronged us. Because we too, are imperfect.  We commit mistakes.  We fail. And yet, He forgives us.  He loves us. With each request to ask for His forgiveness, we should also be ready to forgive.

I am sorry, Lord for hurting You despite Your love for me. I ask for the grace to accept Your love for me and to embrace the call to love You back.  I promise to try my best to be a channel of that same love to others and to myself.

To close, let me share one of my favourite prayers, the Act of Love:
O my God, I love you with my whole heart and soul for You are all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbour as myself for the love of You. I forgive all those who have injured me. And I ask pardon for all those whom I have injured. Amen.

With references from: Contemplating The Seven Last Words (2004) by the Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara

Special Thanks to our Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Joseph Buslon, for the privilege and the opportunity to share this reflection for the contemplation on the Seven Last Words on Good Friday 2019.