February / March 2015 - Vol. 78

Sin and
                      forgiveness, by Kevin Carden

Forgiveness and Reconciliation with One Another

by Carlos Mantica

The following essay is adapted from the book, From Birdhood to Egghead: Hatch or Rot as a Christian, by Carlos Mantica. In the forward to the book Fr. Victoriano Arizti, from Victoria, Spain writes: "You are going to experience, dear reader, how these talks and teachings, which ...are Nicaraguan experiences, conceptualized by Chale Mantica in light of God's Word Ė do give a concrete response to the issues and questions that often come up in your communities or in the apostolic field the Lord has called you to. These talks now come to your hands, with the same love and the same apostolic enthusiasm with which their author developed them, and I hope they will be helpful for your own enrichment and to give practical orientation to those who share with you the yearning for a more genuine Christianity, one that will be an effective answer to the problems confronted by today's society."

I met my Lord at the precise moment when many things in my life were beginning to crumble down, including my family. I now have a family that is very much united and very happy, as a fruit of reconciliation and of the Lordís mercy. That is why, on addressing the topic of family as the target and instrument of reconciliation, I can do it with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord of all tenderness.

The human family is deeply divided at all levels
I was born in Nicaragua, that trouble-ridden country where the human family is nowadays deeply divided at all levels Ė children against parents, wives against husbands, brother against brother. This division is today our greatest sorrow, and the task of reconciliation is the most difficult challenge that the Lord poses to his people.

I visit the U.S. with some frequency, and I am sad to discover that, even though in a different way, American families are divided too, and their division is very deep.

Since statistics are very helpful to make our talks more impressive, I decided to gather information about the situation of Catholic families in the United States, and I found some data that are frankly quite interesting.

From 1973 to 1983, the rate of divorced Catholics increased from one in every seven to one in every four marriages. While the divorce rate in the general population of the U.S. increased by 50 percent, during the same period the divorce rate among Catholics increased by 90 percent.

These numbers speak to us about a divided family, about a division that alienates and separates spouses. But the picture is only complete when we look into the situation of their children.

From 1957 to 1979 the incidence of suicide among the youth increased by 230 percent. The figure alone says nothing, until we realize that this increase is ten times higher than the increase in suicide among the adult population. The arrests of white young people under 18 increased by 2730 percent, and the number of murders committed by white youngsters in 310 percent. In the U.S., 40 percent of the murders nowadays are committed by young people between 16 and 24 years old.

The number of illegitimate births rose 800 percent among girls between 15 and 19 years old, despite the generalized use of contraceptives. In 1982, 33 percent of people above 12 years of age used some drug in a more or less customary way, but the percentage went up to 64 percent among high school seniors. More than one third of them had experimented other illegal drugs in addition to marijuana. (Pastoral Renewal, Nov. 1983, p. 40).

The inner root of the problem is sin within us
Statistics are just too cold and too impersonal. We run the risk of seeing only figures where there are real people involved. Each of these young people has a name and a family which could be ours. Behind every integer lies a disintegrated personality. Thereís something that is not working the way God intended it to. Thereís someone who is shattered inside.

In the face of this kind of situations, man wonders what is going wrong, where his failure is. We Christians know the answer: no matter how different the road one might have followed, the point of departure is always the same. All of our failures, both personal and social, have their root in the inner breakdown of man through sin, and in his separation from God.

This is what our bishops reminded us of in the Synod of 1983: ďThe divisions that disturb our world are at once a terrible and revealing sign, and a bitter fruit of that intimate division produced by man through sin, that alienates him from God, from himself and from others.Ē

We need to listen to the voice of the church that is continuously reminding us that the root of our troubles is inside our own hearts. Modern man insists on looking for the cause and the solution to his problems outside of his own heart. This can be seen both in the case of the divorced woman who asserts that everything will be different with this new husband, and in the young revolutionary who asserts that the new change will finally bring peace.

Unfortunately, divorces and revolutions come one after the other without yielding the expected results. As the root is the same, the fruits are the same.

We do not need an elaborate theology to know that this is true. Even the most complex theology becomes plain and obvious when our own existence teaches us the truth. Family is perhaps the context where we can most clearly verify the existence of that destructive force we carry within us, and which we call sin.

One day we choose a girl, the woman of our dreams, whom we love deeply, for whom we would be willing to do anything, and to whom we want to devote our whole life in order to build a home with her that will be a true paradise. We lack nothing, we have everything it takesóa sincere desire, a firm decision, the necessary love and the person we ourselves chose to make all of this a reality.

Sin within the heart sows division and destruction
And yet even that dream collapses. The reason is that we carry inside ourselves something that will soon begin to surface Ė jealousy, grudge, resentment. And happiness is blurred today by anger, and tomorrow by incomprehension, and the next day by mockery and sarcasm, by alienation, by the distance and silence of two people who are drifting away towards lack of love. The sin within us has begun its process of division and destruction.

When this happens, we wonder what has taken place. And, like St. Paul, we answer that ďI do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within meĒ (Romans 7:15, 17).

I know that among you there are people who are suffering. There are people with deep wounds in their souls, caused by the sins of others. And there are people who have done a lot of harm through their actions or omissions, possibly without intending to, possibly against the people they loved most. It would be better if that had not happened; they would like to start all over again; but they think this is impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.

family at the cross

God offers restoration through repentance and forgiveness
Iím on my return trip from the impossible. I know the way back. The way God offers us to come back from the impossible is the same he offers to come back from sin to his friendship Ė the way of reconciliation through repentance and forgiveness.

Man today is shattered inside. Psychiatrists tell us that this inner breakdown, in a very high percentage, is caused by two big factors: guilt, and resentment or grudge.

Repentance and forgiveness are the only cure and solution
This is something God knows quite well, because heís the one who fashioned us and knows better than anybody else how it is that we work. Everybody knows that a diesel car cannot operate on gasoline. Itís not just that it wonít run, but that if we try it, we ruin the car. It will be broken inside. God knows that a family cannot work with grudge, because it was made to work with love. And because God knows this, and in addition to that he wants our good and loves us, he then does something we donít always understand Ė he calls us to repentance, and he commands us to forgive. And he does so because repentance and forgiveness are the only cure and solution for guilt and grudge that are destroying us.

Young people, too, were made to operate on love. So when they donít find it, they look for a replacement, or simply refuse to function. Sometimes they will only experience a tremendous vacuum inside, and they try to fill it up with strong experiences. In other cases, they are filled with hatred or grudge that impels them to violence.

Behind their rebelliousness and their drugs, behind their escapism, behind their violence, we must diagnose a failure in their inner engine. Something is lacking. Something is broken. No matter what fuel he or she is using, it has to be changed. That is, he or she needs to repent and go back to the fuel he was designed for.

Apart from God we cannot save ourselves
And, brothers and sisters, we were ultimately designed to operate on God. We cannot run without him. Man was made to run with Godís life, with the Spirit of God. This is what Genesis tells us, that God blew his own Spirit into dust in order to give us life. When man, through sin, loses the Spirit of God, he becomes mere dust once again. That is, heís now mere flesh and is subject to the laws of the flesh.

This is what our faith teaches us: that man, apart from God and without the help of the Holy Spirit, carries within himself a destroying force that we call sin. Unless we draw near and unite ourselves to God once again through reconciliation, unless the Lord gives us a new heart, unless we are born again from on high, unless the Spirit of God shapes us in the image of Christ, unless Godís power acts in our lives... in sum, brothers and sisters, unless we are saved by Jesus Christ, we will continue to fail, despite our best intentions and our greatest efforts, and a destroyed family is the clearest proof to this great truth.

Even though the topic of my talk is not reconciliation to God, all that I will say from now on presupposes this reconciliation and vital union to him. It is through him, with him and in him that everything else is possible.

It is good to know what the Lord commands us to do, but it is also necessary to understand why he commands what he commands. Everything is easier and clearer when we understand the Lordís ways.

The kingdom of God is peace, joy, and righteousness
There is a parable that can be very useful for us to have a better understanding of the Lordís purposes and ways. It is found in Matthew 18:23-35, and in it the Lord explains to us to some extent what the Kingdom of God is like. We will find a deeper meaning in it if we remember that in Romans 14:17 we are told that the Kingdom of God is living in righteousness, peace and joy. And thatís what the Lord wants for us: a life in righteousness, full of his joy and peace. This is the parable:

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ĎLord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.í And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, ĎPay what you owe.í So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ĎHave patience with me, and I will pay you.í He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ĎYou wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?í And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
open bible

Allow the word of God to challenge you
Brothers and sisters, we Christians need to allow the Word of God to challenge us. The Lord repeatedly says in Scripture that he will only forgive our trespasses if we ourselves forgive those who offend us. That is something very serious, something we need to get clear on: forgiving is not something optional that we can do or left undone, but is a command.

However, I think it is important for you to understand why it is that the Lord commands us to forgive. It is worth discovering at all times, behind every command of God, the love and the tenderness of a Father who loves us.

The Lord often uses his parables to explain to us what God is like. In this parable, the first thing we find, as we look at the amount of this manís debt, is a God who loves us so much that he allows us to accumulate incredible debts. One could say that he doesnít even keep a record of the things he gives us or of the debts accrued.

It is obvious that the intention of the parable is to show us that what we owe God is something we would never be able to pay. But thatís what God is like, and he allows for these things because he is Love.

But the thing doesnít stop there. The Lord teaches us something even greater and more beautiful: the only thing this man in the parable dares to do is ask for patience so he can pay. He doesnít even think about asking for more. However, this man on his knees leads God to compassion, and God goes far beyond the manís request. Of his own will, he grants the total cancellation of all his debts.

What this parable teaches us is that Godís kindness is much larger than anything we could imagine or anything we dare expecting from him. St. Paul says that what eye has not seen, or ear heard, nor have we even been able to imagine, is what God has reserved for those who love him. We who are the Lordís friends know that very well. Thatís what heís like.

When God forgives he cancels the debt totally
The parable also teaches us that God does not forgive in a limited way. He does not keep, as we do, even a little IOU that can become a tool for pressing on the debtors. Iím talking about that IOU of the old unpaid debt, to be charged to that person who still owes it to us, and which we produce every once in a while to rub on his or her face. This can be our wife or our husband. This can be anyone who has been unlucky enough to become indebted to us.

Godís cancellation is total. What the parable teaches is that when God forgives, itís a whole new start. When he cancels a debt, the IOUís are destroyed. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And when something is taken away, it is no longer there.

The meaning of forgiveness in the Bible is very different from what we mean by that. In the world, if you forgive me, then you are the good guy who in your immense generosity has deigned forgiving me; I continue to be the bad guy who wronged you. I am merely a pardoned or paroled criminal who is allowed to walk freely on the streets, but who continues to be a criminal whose record is being kept somewhere.

But with God, things are different. When God blots our sins, no trace is left of them. They have never existed. Not even St. Peter will be able to find them in his heavenly accounting books when he looks you up. So I can come to you and before God clean and unblemished. Not because someone stole my record at the police headquarters. Some say that what happened is that someone spilled it with his own blood and made it illegible. But in fact, something greater than that has happened: when God forgives us, he also justifies us. That is, he makes us just.

It is not just the record that has disappeared. The convict has disappeared too. The convict exists no more, and the reason he exists no more is that he is dead. It is said that he was crucified together with his attorney. So Iím now a new creation. Iím a different person, I have been born again from on high, I have no sin and no past.

couple in conflict

Do not accuse, humiliate, or compare others
My brothers and sisters, it is not possible to keep a healthy, loving relationship with somebody else if this person makes us feel constantly accused. Or if we, despite his forgiveness, always feel tormented by our past failures. The Lord knows this, and that is why he wants and expects that, once your faults have been deleted, you will forget them forever too.

And you, sister, please do not wield your virtues like a big stick to beat your husband or to make other peopleís faults more obvious. The Lord is even greater and more virtuous, but he does not humiliate us with his holiness. He encourages us and extends his hand to us so we can come closer to him and be lifted up towards him.

A few years ago a lady came to me asking to be prayed for. In her view she was a martyr of her husband, and no one had ever seen so many virtues bound together in one single volume of devotion and holiness. However, as I prayed I began to feel inside myself an unexplainable rage. It was the Lordís wrath. Then I suddenly opened the Bible in front of me, and without looking for a particular passage, I read aloud. The text was Micah 7:4-6, and said:
The best of them is like a brier, the most upright of them a thorn hedge... Guard the doors of your mouth... for... the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; a manís enemies are the men of his own house.
The lady turned pale. Her home was a hell. Her husband had become an alcoholic. Our false martyr had all the virtues, except the ones she needed the most Ė more comprehension, more humility, more love. She was into the bad habit of torturing people with her virtues. Each of her merits was an invoice somebody had to pay.

Forgive your debtors
Brothers and sisters, if the Lord has already paid all of our debts with his blood, why do we insist on bleeding others out to pay for theirs?

In contrast with Godís mercy, the parable shows us the pettiness of manís heart, which keeps a record even of the smallest debts.

There are many ways to seize someone by the throat as the man in the parable. One of them is precisely through continuous reproach, through accusation, through this perpetual inventory of each and every one of the faults committed since the wedding night, through mistrust, through jealousy. Itís like spending your life murdering someone with a small shaving blade. It doesnít kill immediately, but it bleeds the other person out until the relationship and the love finally wither and die.

I think we all can imagine what a marriage would be like if the spouses knew how to forgive each other the way God forgives. It involves coming before each other totally justified, a new creation, in order to start a completely new life all over again. And this is possible if you want.

Not forgiving others has serious consequences
Finally, Christ tells us that not forgiving has its consequences, and will not be left unpunished. He says that, if we are not reconciled to him Ė because we insist on not forgiving those who trespass against us Ė we remain enslaved to the devil and the flesh, which then do with us whatever they want and lead us from death to death and from destruction to destruction.

All of us are, to some extent, actors in this parable. If forgiving is an obligation, itís better for us to feel in the obligation to forgive, even if it is only in order to attain forgiveness from our God. But it is even better for all of us to understand what Godís intent is when he commands us to forgive, so that we are able to discover his love even behind his commands.

I have a friend who is very dear to me. Some time ago he wrote something very intimate and personal, which in a certain way gave a new perspective to my life and to the lives of many other persons. Itís a piece of his own life, and I would like to share it with you. It is written like a tale, but I know itís more than just a tale. He called it The Collector of Wounds, and it goes like this:

The Collector of Wounds

In this world there are collectors of the strangest vanities, of things tangible and intangible.

I met a man who collected wounds. He had a huge album of all the wounds people had inflicted on him. There was a whole variety. Enormous, open and bleeding wounds of atrocious disappointments, of tremendous ingratitude; irregular wounds from bites of hatred, of slander and of that kind of truths that everyone wants to keep hidden and somebody decides to uncover with a rash gesture, as when the sheet is removed from a corpse at the morgue. He even had an album of tiny wounds, hardly visible, but in which the poison of envy was still shining.

He was fond of opening his album of wounds and spending long hours savoring the salty flavor of the blood that dripped from each page, and which was his own blood. There are many collectors of wounds like this man, and their lives are bitter.

Then I met another man, who collected expressions of kindness. He had an album too, which he thought was necessary when he started his collection, but he was only able to paste on it a few of these expressions of kindness, because afterwards he had no time. The expressions of kindness that he gathered were living and flying in his room, filling it with a light like the light of the rainbow.

He could not leaf through his album, because expressions of kindness came by themselves to his hands in endless flocks and swarmed in his room.

There were great expressions of kindness from an open heart, from long, endeared friendships, from beings who knew how to pour love out abundantly.

There were rare expressions of kindness, from hard men, surprised in an unexplainable instant of softening of their hearts, and there were even tiny expressions of kindness, hardly visible, sprinkled with milk like an infantís kiss.

There are many collectors of kindness like this other man, and their lives are sweet.

Something funny happens when you are old. You remember yourself at different times, and it looks as if you were watching other menís lives. These are the first signs of dotage, the dawn of old age. But itís also a time when some things become quite clear.

Between the collector of wounds and the collector of kindness, you are the only difference, my Lord!

Becoming a collector of kindness
Something funny happens when you are old. You remember yourself at different times, and it looks as if you were watching other menís lives. These are the first signs of dotage, the dawn of old age. But itís also a time when some things become quite clear.

Between the collector of wounds and the collector of kindness, you are the only difference, my Lord!

I met both of those two men. And I say ďtwoĒ because, even though they are one person, they are totally different. The new man whom my Lord transformed, I love dearly. We were fortunate to travel together in the new life that began when Jesus came to us. When you walk with collectors of kindness, such as he, you get to see many things clearly.

I have also known many collectors of wounds. Their pain is all the more painful to me because it is a deliberate, stubborn, proud pain. Collectors of wounds are usually tied up by a fine string of pride that hinders them from taking that simple leap of forgiveness towards peace and joy. They will not necessarily be punished by God, because in their resentment and rancor they are already bearing their own punishment.

Perhaps you are now beginning to discover the infinite love of God that lies behind each of his commandments. I would now like to share with you something I wrote a long time ago, and which I think can help you gain a little deeper insight into Godís intent.

This is an imaginary dialogue between a woman and the Lord, but I think this is valid for all of us. Some of you may find it similar to your own prayers. I would ask that for a moment we place ourselves in the Lordís presence and try to complete this dialogue, making it into an actual conversation between Jesus and each one of us.

What I visualize is a lady talking with Jesus, and the conversation goes more or less like this:

Dialogue Between a Lady and the Lord

She: Lord, forgive me! Iím really sorry for having grieved you. My debt is so big!

He: I see your heart and I know you are sincere. Of course I forgive you. I told Peter we needed to forgive, not seven times, but seventy times seven, and that at the end of just one day. How would I not do the same Iím asking you to do? How would I proclaim one thing and then act differently?

Now thereís something I want to ask of you: I want you to forgive that offense that So-and-so caused you (your husband, your wife, your son, etc.). Do you remember?

She: How wouldnít I remember! I canít almost think of anything else!

He: I want you to forgive him.

She: But I canít forgive him after what he did to me.

He: Why do you see the speck that is in your brotherís eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see things differently. Let him who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.

She: But you know all the harm he caused to me, and how I have suffered!

He: But of course I know! If he had not harmed you, you wouldnít need to forgive him. It is precisely because he has made you suffer that you need to forgive him.

She: But itís all the same for him whether I forgive him or hate him! None of my things concerns him at all, and maybe he doesnít even remember the past. I think heís not even interested in your forgiveness, much less in mine.

He: Iím aware of that. I havenít said he needs you to forgive him. He has already forgotten the whole thing, even though you continue to remind him as often as you can. What I said is that you need to forgive him.

She: Why me?

He: Well, because youíre the one whoís suffering. Look at your own face. See how you change and how you destroy yourself inside at the sole idea of having to forgive him. Many of your ailments come from these rancors and grudges you have held in your heart.

She: In other words, youíre now going to come up with the story of turning the other cheek....

He: Was it any use to you to strike back as you did? It is because of not turning the other cheek that both of you have ended up injured, and I donít mean just once. A time came when neither of you did what you really wanted. You only reacted to each otherís actions, and stopped being free. Thatís why you both were dragged into this state of affairs. Turning the other cheek means that our actions must not be determined by the actions of others, but by our own will, by what we would really like to do. I know what you really wanted at that time and what you continue to want even now. And thatís not what you now have.

She: Lord, one canít win the day with you!

He: But one can enjoy. And joy is gain.

She: Well, then, Iím going to forgive him, but just because youíre asking me to.

He: Thatís a good start. You have to forgive, not because you feel like forgiving him, but because I command you to. I have already said that quite clearly: ďI you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespassesĒ (Mt. 6:15). But thereís one thing I want you to be clear about Ė you are not doing me any favor. I do you the favor of commanding you to forgive, because this is for your good, like the rest of my law. Neither do I command this so that you will feel more virtuous Ė I command it so that you will be happier.

She: As far as Iím concerned I wouldnít forgive him, but Iím going to for his sake.

He: Thatís not true. You just said he doesnít care whether you forgive him or not.

She: Oh, well, then, if he doesnít care, I wonít forgive him!

He: Just a little while ago you were asking me to forgive all your trespasses. And you know thereís been a great many of them. You even felt entitled to claim my forgiveness. Now I, who am your Lord and your master, ask you to forgive one single thing Ė the thing that hurts you the most, and youíre saying no! Donít you think youíre putting things upside down?

Now gird your loins and listen: Where were you when I built the vault of heaven, when I set a limit to the ocean, when I shaped the mountains, when I played with galaxies between my fingers? O little worm of mine, my beloved! Donít you think that hatred, rancor or vengeance are a much more serious fault than the thing youíre refusing to forgive? Isnít this a sin of pride and arrogance, the very sin that caused the fall of Lucifer? You yourself are also sinking in a hell built by your rancor. The Christianís only revenge is forgiveness. And your revenge is going to be a big one, because I donít just want you to forgive him but to love him as I love you.

Do you know why I wonít forgive you unless you forgive? Simply because my forgiveness would be of no use to you. I love you all the same. I love you always, even at this time of rebellion on your part. But, you see, even with my forgiveness you would continue to be unhappy.

Iím even willing to let you enter heaven even if you donít forgive. But I ask and clarify: Do you think heaven can really be heaven for somebody who does not forgive? Can it be heaven if you live together with him in eternal rancor? If there can be no heaven without love, how can there be love or heaven without forgiveness?

She: But, Lord, what face can I put on to tell him I forgive him...?

He: Now that you mention your face Ė you no longer have the face I gave you when you began to love him. At your age, everyone is responsible for the face he or she has. Your face has become hard. Your eyes have ceased shining. Thatís a pity. One cannot have light in the eyes and shadows in the soul, because the eyes are the mirror of the soul.

She: Okay, Lord, I forgive him.... but donít ask me to forget it.

He: You have understood nothing at all. It is remembrance that torments you. If I gave you amnesia, you would not suffer any longer, but neither would you enjoy as I want you to enjoy.

She: Youíre right, Lord. But I canít guarantee that I will never remember it. I often remember unwillingly. But I promise I will not lick my wounds, I will not sit down to remember the past, or blame him anymore.

He: Thatís all Iím expecting of you. Leave the rest to me. Allow me to heal those memories and the wound this left in your heart. Do you understand now? I didnít just want to forgive your sins; I also wanted and want to heal you of the harm that the sins of others have left in your heart.

Thatís the end of the dialogue. Brothers and sisters, the salvation Christ offers to us is not just in heaven, nor does it consist only in forgiving your sins. The Lord wants to save your marriage, your relationship to your children; he wants to save your health and your joy. He wants to save you as a whole. One of the things the Lord wants to save you from is the harm that the sins of others have caused in your heart. Your contribution is forgiveness. The Lord will take care of the rest.

Difference between reconciliation and feelings of guilt
Now I would like to talk about repentance and reconciliation.

Perhaps, as you understand the immensity of Godís mercy and love, or as you understand the magnitude of the harm you have caused to others, you now feel tormented by feelings of guilt. You may even have thought sometimes, or someone might have taught you, that God enjoys having you feel guilty, or that we all expect that the least you can do is feel guilty for all you have done.

But thatís a big lie. God does not want to harm you, and feelings of guilt are harmful. But, in addition, they do not lead to reconciliation. They drove Judas to despair, but not to repentance. Feelings of guilt never come from God. They come from the accuser, from him who was a murderer from the beginning.

Let me explain myself. A friend of mine says that guilt is saying, ďHow evil I am!Ē, whereas repentance is saying, ďWhat a fool Iíve been! How different all things would have been if only I had acted differently!Ē Repenting means changing your attitude and starting to act in a different way. Thatís what God expects of you Ė that from now on you will act that other way that would have made you happy, or that would have saved you a lot of bitterness.

Reconciliation embraces repentance and forgiveness
Reconciliation is simply the embrace between repentance and forgiveness. It is the encounter between one who says, ďIíve been foolish, I did wrong. Please forgive me. This will not happen again,Ē and the one who says, ďI have been foolish too in not forgiving you, and have unnecessarily borne the bitterness of rancor. Of course I forgive you!Ē

Reconciliation of the spouses
You will say this seems all too easy. I will say it is, when both parties rely on the love and faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many times, in these years of serving the Lord, I have seen how a single minute was enough for two spouses who were estranged and mutually tormented by their lack of love, by their silence or by deep wounds, to find again the way to happiness through reconciliation. I invite you to try the same today.

You will say you have already tried it. But this time it can be different. The difference may lie in the possibility that, having reconciled yourselves to God first, you both hand over your marriage and your family to the Lord; that you show him, as a pleasant offering in his eyes, your mutual repentance and forgiveness, and ask him to give you a new heart so you can love each other the way he commands you to. But this time you will not just rely on your own strength, because thatís the strength of the flesh, but rather on the faithfulness of the living God who established a sacramental covenant with you they day of your wedding, and on the power of the Holy Spirit who will now inhabit your hearts through grace.

Reconciliation of the family
The reconciled couple can then, and only then, become an instrument of reconciliation for the whole family, and an instrument for many other things. First of all, as a witness to unity. Our children reject marriage and dispense with it to live together in concubinage, because they have ceased to believe not just in the sanctity of marriage but in the need or the possibility to marry just one person forever. Statistics prove them right. Through our reconciliation and harmony, we need to demonstrate to them that marriage is possible and worthwhile.

We also need reconciliation in order to form our children on the basis of a single mind, the mind of the husband and the wife who, having agreed together as a result of ongoing dialogue, work as a team for the sake of their children, instead of acting as two rivals who contend for their love or their acceptance by competing with each other in a race to see which of the two grants them maximum freedom or maximum luxury and gifts. If they do the latter, they will destroy their children, who will in the end manipulate their differences in order to make the most of them. These will be spoiled children, corrupted by their own parents, because they lacked the necessary unity to form them in discipline and obedience.

The family as an instrument of reconciliation
Finally, the family is an instrument of reconciliation just as it has been so often and in so many places an instrument of division, of hatred, of resentment, of discrimination, of manipulation, of oppression, of rivalry, of cruelty, of lack of love, of promiscuity, of vice. A family will shape others according to its own character.

Whether we like it or not, our countries will never be more than their families are. It is by itself symptomatic that modern revolutions and all the manifestations of non-conformity are led by youngsters who have just left adolescence and are dominated by a spirit of rebelliousness and licentiousness. I know many of them, and a very high percentage come from destroyed homes.

Termite sins can destroy marriages too
Just one final recommendation: When you reconciled yourself to God, it is most likely that you only confessed your serious sins, your mortal sins. I have sometimes found marriages that were destroyed by that kind of sin: adultery, physical abuse, manifest cruelty. Or by big sins that others committed against them Ė slander, envy, etc. But for each one of these, there are 99 marriages that never knew what it was that tore them apart. Thatís what we call ďtermite sins,Ē which, just as the termites that destroy lots of American houses, cannot be seen, cannot be detected, cannot be accused, we donít repent of them, and they are not done away with until the damage is done. These are your greatest enemy.

Termite sins are lack of dialogue, mockery, sarcasm, rudeness, yelling, vulgarity, accusation, mistrust, jealousy, rejecting your spouse sexually, squandering, lack of love, unconsciousness. It is these small things, and others like them, that can undermine and corrode your house without your noticing it. They begin by alienating and separating the spouses, but if they are not detected and corrected on time they can end up by destroying your home.

God's goal for us is a new life of unity together
All of you are very holy, and perhaps you donít think your marriage is threatened by big, conspicuous sins. But the Lord invites us to be perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect. Let us now draw closer to him, who is now become an offering on the altar, and once reconciled to our brothers, to our spouses and our children, let us also hand to him our termite sins, so we can begin a new life of unity together in our family. Our family, having received the benefit of reconciliation, can now be also an instrument for reconciliation to our children and to all men and women. Glory to the Lord!

  [This article is excerpted from the book, From Birdhood to Egghead: Hatch or Rot as a Christian, © 2001 Carlos Mantica Abaunza. Used with permission.] .l
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