‘MEA CULPA’, ‘MEA CULPA’, MEA MAXIMA CULPA’
Everybody knows about forgiveness but how to forgive is a big question.
So, let’s look at biblical history of ‘forgiveness’ from the Old Testament to the New Testament where Jesus shows us the true meaning of forgiveness. Many Christians seem ‘not’ to favour the God of the Old Testament. We may understand their attitude because Yahweh did not ‘talk’ about ‘forgiveness’ explicitly, but many books and authors like the Book of Numbers, Leviticus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, Micah and Zechariah did! However, everybody still remembers the familiar words of Psalm 51: “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin… Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” (51:2,7).
Jesus of the New Covenant has opened our eyes to ‘forgiveness’ in a new vision from his death bed on Calvary: “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” From that moment millions of his disciples followed this new way of love up until our time. From St. Stephen to the Sudanese saint, Josephine Bakhita, and to our own Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, their words live forever: “If I was to meet those slave raiders who abducted me and those who tortured me, I’d kneel down to them and kiss their hands, because, if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian or a religious person” (St Bakhita). “Whatever troubles may be before you, accept them bravely, remembering Whom you are trying to follow.” (St Mary MacKillop)
The ‘action’ of forgiveness calls upon ‘non-resistance’ instead of ‘resistance’. We may remember the gentle words of Jesus at the High Priest’s court: “If I have said anything wrong, tell everyone here what it was. But if I am right in what I have said, why do you hit me?” (John 18:23)
Truly, when we return evil for evil, then the reign of evil has been extended; when we return good for evil – whatever particular form the ‘good’ may take in a particular instance in a world where the ideal good is seldom an option – then God’s kingdom is advanced. So I could translate the Latin words of the Confiteor in the Mass into this way: “I’m sorry”, “for getting others into trouble”: “I’m very sorry”.
So my dear friends, with humble confession we are going to put ‘ashes’ on our forehead or ‘sitting on ashes’, as Fr. Ron Roheiser calls, on Ash Wednesday to begin the season of Lent in the coming weeks.
Until then, be good to one another – Fr. Joseph-Hien