Once upon a time, I betrayed my Beloved. He was – and now is again – my truest Love, the One who has remained faithful to me always, fully devoted and loving, forever urging me to grow closer to him. Even so, despite his extreme love and faithfulness, I betrayed him. I publicly and pridefully slandered his name. I left him, and even though he kept making continuous yet gently loving gestures to urge me back home, I ignored him. I stubbornly refused to answer his call.
"Yet somehow, at some point, my devotion began to trickle away. I skipped Sunday Mass from time to time, until one day I realized I hadn’t set foot inside a church for months. Sin breeds sin, vice encourages vice, and that act of slipping away caused me to slip even further, until I got to the point that I no longer believed Christ was the Son of God."
There is a poem by Alexander Pope:
'Vice is a monster of so frightful mein,
as to be hated, needs but to be seen
but seen to oft, familiar with its face,
we first endure, then pity, then embrace'
This is a very heart-wrenching piece. Forgiveness is very challenging. A lot of people confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. "How can you forgive after so and so did xyz to you?" I like to think of anger or resentment as a fire, and we are standing on it. It burns us, it burns hot, when we are first betrayed. But to forgive is to decide not to add on to the flames. To let them take time to burn low, and eventually go out. If we refuse to forgive, we will continue to add fuel to the fire, and it will burn hotter, and burn us faster. In short: forgiveness is a unilateral and individual act. Reconciliation requires the work of the other party to "confess their sins, do penance, and amend their lives". This feels simple enough in a confessional but much harder to do when it is between people, especially people we love.
Salvation history is the story of a loving shepherd refusing to abandon a people who hate him. He teaches us, slowly, of what he is capable of; he teaches us, slowly, of how much he loves us, culminating in a final act of sacrifice that cannot be matched--he gave us a perfect sacrifice to pay an infinite debt. Even though *we murdered God*, God still loves us perfectly, and individually.
I have had to learn this lesson myself. I was not raised Catholic, I came into the Church in 2018. I emerged somehow from a family that feels fraught with similar betrayal. My parents nearly divorced due to acts of infidelity--it took forgiveness from the one and repentance from the other for the wound to heal. One of my siblings is estranged--this has, oddly, been the more difficult wound for me to let go of. But all healing begins with forgiveness. We can't heal until we stop burning ourselves.
Thank you for this essay--lots to chew on. God bless you! I will be praying for healing for both of you.
They say that forgiveness is a process, and I think it's the same whether we're the ones forgiving or we're the ones being forgiven. The difference with Jesus is that He forgives us I think the moment we sincerely repent from our sins, though it takes some time before it fully sinks in.