PARADOXICAL

The faith chronicles

Sunday, August 06, 2006

 

Repairing wrongdoing


And now the hard part...

You think everything is over? Of course not.

A lot of us think that "forgive and forget" is the operative mantra in any reconciliation. My personal experience shows that it's "forgive but not forget." As my English high school teacher said, "The wound heals but the scar remains."

We must forget in the sense that the repentant or penitent has been washed away of his sin or guilt and thus can again enjoy the favor of God and His people just like before. Indeed, we must forget any bitterness, resentment and regret which may hinder us in our relationships. [Update: To quote Fr. Raneiro Cantalamessa, "our religion is a religion of forgiving enemies."]

But we should never forget the hard-eanred lessons learned. We shouldn't have a short memory. After all, our past mistakes caused us so much tears, heartaches, and sleepless nights, hadn't they? Shall we let everything be of no avail?

I've been witness to many a travesty of reconciliation. The offending party says sorry to the aggrieved and they both kiss and make up as though nothing happened. That's nice and sweet, but only for awhile. Like fools, the two parties reprise their roles with clockwork regularity, always going back to square one. The repeat performance shows that no issues have been resolved, so the much-touted reconciliation has been at best a bogus one.

There simply is no true reconciliation without reparation, no true repentance without atonement or expiation. God, in His ineffable wisdom, did not create a need for purgatory without a compellng reason. I realized this challenge of repairing the wrong I'd done involved a lot of work indeed: I needed to mend the things I had broken, so to speak, pay for or replace the things stolen and strive to change my behavior where reparation was impossible - the impure thoughts and motives, the unkind words uttered, the uncharitable deeds... It would have been an uphill battle with the demons of my past but for the abundant mercy and grace of God.

The reparation process is not yet through; atonement for sins committed as far back as when I was but a kid are stillongoing. This is between me and God already. It's hard, yes, but not so hard when you aspire to regain a dear treasure: your lost friendship with God. It's very scary in a way, yes, when you think about the gravity of the sins you have committed, but think of it this way: what lies ahead, what lies beyond this life is unimaginably far scarier.

What does the penitent gain for all this? No less than inner peace, the kind that only one's spirit can understand. No less than God's abiding presence, the kind that gives hope that "in the moment of death, He shall not be our Judge but a merciful Savior."

8.12.2000


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