Thursday of Lent 1, March 14, 2019
“Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins. His mercy endures for ever.”
Today we will focus on the confession of withholding forgiveness:
We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven. Have mercy on us, Lord.
This section of the litany connects our affections toward God (love of God with our whole being) and our affections toward others (love of neighbor) with our will to act (forgiving others).
Forgiving ourselves and forgiving each other is the hard work of love. Loving ourselves and each other in Christ results in being at peace with ourselves and each other. As we live in community, we inevitably make mistakes and choices that result in harm. Sometimes, either in anger or frustration, we lash out at each other or withhold what we have to offer for the life of the community, resulting in injuries and a less than peaceful community life.
Part of seeking to live in peace includes learning how to forgive ourselves and each other. We can begin the movement of forgiveness from two ways: from the first two sentences of this part of the confession that we have been reflecting upon this week, or from the second part of this sentence in the confession: “as we have been forgiven.” Today, we will approach the movement toward confessing our lack of offering forgiveness to others from the first way. Tomorrow, we will look at the second way.
From the first two sentences in this part of the confession, we are invited to first confess that we have not loved God with our whole being. Then we are invited to confess that we have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Loving our neighbor (and ourselves!) is the overflow of loving God as we seek to serve Christ in each other. Not forgiving ourselves, each other, or our neighbors, is another way of not exercising an attitude of love toward God. Loving God with our whole person is the foundation for all other love. As we open ourselves to loving God more and more because of who God is and for what God has done for us, we will experience God’s love for us all the more. This love of God will then spill over into our love of our neighbor, not for what they can do for us, but because we can see Christ being formed in them. Then, as we see how Christ is being formed in them and in ourselves, forgiving each other (and ourselves) will become easier. Since we aren’t fully formed into the image of Christ yet, forgiving is still hard work.
As we confess the individuals, the communities, and institutions that we are angry toward or hold hard feelings against, let us ask God to help us begin the hard work of becoming a people who offer forgiveness to each other and ourselves.
Whom do we need to begin forgiving? For what do we need to forgive ourselves?
In the following prayer, consider replacing “these” and “them” with “us” as you pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen. (BCP, 308)