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The Path to Forgiveness and Reconciliation


Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance
against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. (Col 3:12-14)



To realize that forgiveness followed by reconciliation is both a gift from God and a gift to one another.


Start with a simple prayer based on the theme of reconciliation, including the biblical quote written above.

Starting with Our Experiences

One day, Tom and his father had a verbal confrontation. The discussion started over a simple event; nonetheless, each one decided to bring all of their repressed feelings to light and used them to hurt the other. The voices got louder, the faces turned red, to the point that the father asked his son to leave the house. The boy was leaving when he heard the words: "You are no longer my son! I regret the day you were born!" These words felt like a sharp knife going through the heart of the young boy. Several days passed. The father suffered silently as well as the boy. One day, a friend of the family came to talk to the father. The father welcomed him and asked him to sit. While sharing a cup of coffee, the friend explained the motive of his visit. He asked the father to "forgive the young boy by giving him a second chance." He also asked the father to allow the young boy to return home. The father smiled quietly and informed his friend: "I cannot do what you're asking me, since my son is back. He came last night and we have forgiven each other. He told me how much he loves me and I told him how I could not live without him."

Today we see within society and the church community a need and longing for healing and forgiveness. This seems especially true at the start of a new millennium. As we look around the world we see both the lights of reconciliation and the shadows of darkness where pain, anger, non-acceptance, and despair abound. These shadows speak of the tremendous cries for forgiveness and reconciliation—for healing within ourselves, our families, our neighborhoods, and our churches and communities. The nightly news and local newspapers paint one story after another of the inability to forgive and heal. Families and communities are torn apart because people refuse to forgive one other and move towards reconciliation.

Every human being has been the victim of some kind of rejection, ridicule, threat, or even violence. Those experiences lead us to lose sight of human kindness and to block our own capacity to trust, love, and forgive. However, forgiveness can cure those wounds and lead us to reconciliation through love. The well-known saying "To err is human, to forgive divine" is a popular way of affirming that we all make mistakes and should be ready to forgive each other in order to live happily. Amidst the daily problems and conflicts that shake our lives, the families and communities that stay together are the ones that recognize their faults and their need for reconciliation — through offering and receiving forgiveness. On the other hand, when there is a refusal to forgive, "our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious" even to God's forgiveness (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2840).

Reflection questions:

Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition

The Gospel constantly shows Jesus calling people to conversion, curing the sick, and offering the forgiveness of sins. Jesus' healing the man born blind, forgiving the woman caught in adultery, and curing many people, reveal God the Father as the Lord of forgiveness. The parable of the prodigal son shows God as the loving father who forgives and is reconciled to his children, and describes how this reconciliation is the cause of great joy (Lk 15:11-31). Through Jesus Christ, God the Father seeks us out tirelessly to reconcile us to himself. This search begins in the heart of God and reaches its fullness with the Incarnation (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, no. 7). God's desire to forgive us moves us to seek forgiveness and the reconciliation we need in order to forgive and be reconciled to others. In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus teaches us that the human person is a loving being called to forgive and be forgiven. In the same way that God forgives us, we must open our hearts to divine compassion and forgive those who hurt us. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of reconciliation. For this reason, forgiveness is the high point of Christian prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2844). When we accept our own faults or forgive those who have offended us, our hearts are open to God's grace and we are freed from the oppression of sin and resentment. To forgive from the heart is not easy, but we count on God's infinite mercy to do so. Sometimes, we are unable to get over the hurt and forget the offense, but "the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2843).

Reflection questions:

Putting Our Faith into Action

Reconciliation is the work not only of individuals, but of the faith community and of society. Conflicts that consume the world are rooted in unresolved wrongs—imagined or real, deliberate or involuntary—that retain their power to provoke discord, hostility, factions, discrimination, violence, and warfare. As Catholic Christians, our faith calls us to be reconciling persons and to be members of a reconciling community. Our baptism incorporates us into the reconciling mission of Jesus Christ. In Christ we are called to forgive one another, to reconcile our differences, and to heal our souls and our world from all our brokenness. The Jubilee Year 2000, as a year of favor from the Lord (Lk 4:9), is also the ideal time to renew our understanding, appreciation, and practice of the Sacrament of penance and reconciliation. In this Sacrament, we confess our sins to Christ and are relieved of their burden. We experience, through the absolution of the priest, Christ's forgiveness and mercy.

Action steps:

In Light of Attending World Youth Day

Jesus began his teaching with this message: "Reform your lives. Turn away from sin. Try to be better." This is a message that young adults who will be participating in WYD need to practice during the preparation for this magnificent event.

In preparing for a life change, we need to try practicing the following:

Let go. Relinquish the power struggle against others or against something that already happened. What happened did happen, and there is nothing we can do to change its happening. Therefore, during this time, let go those things that you cannot change.

Heal the wounds. Allow yourself to grieve. Release the pain and allow the grief to flow. Take remedial measures to reduce the pain of whatever situation remains. Look for new things to take the place of what was lost. Help others to remedy their pain. Be compassionate to others, respect their pain, and offer alternatives to seek for new things.

Reconcile. Recreate relationships. Renegotiate with those with whom you have had differences with. Make new commitments, increase your communication, and eventually, celebrate the learning and growth that comes out of forgiveness. Forgiveness can be practiced in your relationship with friends, family members, colleagues, work partners, people in the community, etc.

Remember that reconciliation is complete when trust has been restored.

Each day, maintain a log or journal in which you document how your life is changing daily. Emphasize your self observations in the areas of:

Continue focusing on those areas that you need to continue working on.

In the silence of your room, recite the prayer of St. Francis:

Make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me plant love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek to be comforted as to comfort;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Modified from:

Secretariat for Family, Laity, Women & Youth
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194 (202) 541-3000

             October 03, 2001 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops


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