“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
During the gathering of Monday’s Contemplative Community, the above passage from John’s gospel became the point of discussion. What do these words mean? As we explored the topic of forgiveness, many pieces of wisdom sprang forth. In a nutshell, it seems everyone agreed to the harmful effect on ourselves when we harbor past hurts, betrayals, pain, resentments, etc. and that in order to truly be free, we must give up these hurts for healing and release. In allowing these hurts to be released, we release ourselves as well as the individual who harmed us from the pain of harbored resentment. Forgiveness, then has an expansive effect as we are healed, along with the strings we hold of the other’s guilt.
Forgiveness, however, is not an easy task, which is why Jesus was quoted as saying that we must forgive 70 times 7 times. I think that sometimes even 70 times 7 times is not enough. And in the end, the moment of true forgiveness, when we are internally free of the past hurt, is simply an act of Grace. We must be open to the forgiveness and we need to be doing to work to allowing the wounds to be healed, but the moment we are truly free, seems to be purely an act of God. And…you know it when you receive it!
As we reflect on the process of forgiveness, it might be helpful to plumb the inner recesses of our consciousness for the unhealed wounds that we may be harboring with resentment, spite, a desire for vengeance. As we name these wounds, perhaps we can explore those feelings of resentment, etc. for the benefit we receive from hanging on to these wounds. Do we feel more powerful, do we feel right, do we feel protected from the deeper hurt within. As we explore these feelings, let us turn to our Divine Source for healing and for the grace to trust that we will be ok if we let go of those old wounds. As a visual, look to the figure of Gollum from The Lord of the Rings as he strokes his “Precious.” Let us look to the way that clutching this piece of darkness changed him into the desperate creature that he became. This is what happens inside of us as we clutch to our own pieces of darkness. In order to truly be free, we must have the courage of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins to let the darkness go.