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I proposed this to my spiritual father for his comments some time ago. I propose it to you, my brethren, for comment.

The Last Judgment and Radical Forgiveness

You are standing at the Judgment Set of Christ. The scenario is that each of us will be asked one question. Jesus asks, “Why should you be admitted to My Kingdom?”

It is a given that the nature of the Trinity is other-directed. That is, the Father points to the Son: see the Gospel of the Baptism in the Jordan and the Gospel of the Transfiguration. The Son points to the Father: see the passages in the Gospels where Jesus tells His disciples that He has come to do the Father’s Will and the passages where He refers to the fact that no one knows the Father except the Son and the one that the Son reveals the Father to (St. Irenaeus, Against the Heresies). The Holy Spirit points us back to the Father and to the Son. No one of the three Divine Persons points to Himself—part of the vast humility that I am convinced is the second greatest attribute of God beyond His unconditional love for us.

To be like God, we, too, must be other directed. That is, we must love our neighbor as ourselves and point toward our neighbor. Abba Anthony in The Desert Fathers is quoted as saying, “That with our neighbor there is life and death: for if we do good to our brother, we shall do good to God: but if we scandalize our brother, we sin against Christ.”

The opposite of other-directedness is self-centeredness or selfishness. It is the tendency to point to ourselves and to think that our own interests must come first and foremost—always and in all ways.

At the Judgment Seat, to speak at all to answer the question is to immediately be self-centered and to lose one’s claim to be like Christ and to be worthy of the Kingdom. The figures in the Book of Revelation who cast down their crowns before Christ are the example here. Given the reward of their own goodness, they humbly cast them down and prostrate themselves before the One Who gave them all things, including the grace to have overcome the time of testing and to be there with Him.

So we are caught in silence.

Now the question becomes how will my answer be given.

Consider that someone in the vast throng of every created man, woman, and child from the beginning of time until the end of time is gathered there waiting as the question is posed—someone you may only vaguely remember from your life; someone you may have met only once—steps forward and says

“Lord, I am unworthy of Heaven and earth, of the life You have given me, of the many talents and blessings You showered on me during my life, of even lifting up my head in Your presence or of daring to speak to You directly, but please have pity on this person standing here before You and have mercy on him. I was in need of a little comfort and encouragement (or a smile on a bad day or a meal when his donation came to the soup kitchen where I went or help with a project or . . . ) and this person came to my aid. If he has done nothing else in his life worthy of Your Kingdom, please grant it to him for this one act of kindness to me.”

And then another steps forward. And another. And another. And another.

Then after all of the people you have done the smallest and the greatest acts of kindness, almsgiving, and charity, Jesus says, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of Your Master.”

But consider the alternative. What greater condemnation could you imagine if not one person stepped forward? Would not the silence be condemnation enough?

Further—

You have moved to the Right Hand.

Someone comes to the same place you have just been. Those come forward to endorse and an equal number come forward to condemn. This is a person who has done you a great harm in your pilgrimage. It has altered the course of your life. It has caused you pain and suffering and took a long time to come to cope with and live with it. Jesus says to you, “This one’s eternal destiny I put in your hands. What do you say?”

The knee-jerk reaction is—pull the lever holding the trap door under him, let him hit the flames, and hope he hasn’t brought his asbestos underwear. It’s only human. This one has caused your life to be miserable, caused you a lot of pain, maybe even hurt your family, your career, made your pilgrimage a huge struggle, maybe damaged your ability to trust or have faith in others.

But what is the answer for the true follower of Christ? What did Jesus mean in the Gospel when He called us to take up our cross and follow Him? What did He mean when He said that if they hated Him they would hate us also? What did He mean by the story of the servant forgiven so much who failed to forgive his fellow servant a fraction of what he had owed?

Should our answer not be?

“Lord, You have forgiven me so much. You have brought me through my pilgrimage to this place of blessedness and given me a place in Your Kingdom. All the pain of my life is over. You have given me the example of unconditional forgiveness from Your Holy Cross. So I ask you, in Your mercy to forgive this one everything that he has done to me. Forget it altogether. Look on him as if he had never done anything to me at all. If his eternal place depends on me, forgive him unconditionally as You forgave Your own persecutors. Grant that what he did to me may be counted as a blessing because, by Your grace and Providence, it has become for me the means of my own being here. Grant that he may have a place here, too.”

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"You are standing at the Judgment Set of Christ. The scenario is that each of us will be asked one question. Jesus asks, “Why should you be admitted to My Kingdom?”'

I should not be admitted. Lord Jesus Christ Son Of God Have Mercy On Me a Sinner!

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I should not be admitted. Lord Jesus Christ Son Of God Have Mercy On Me a Sinner!


InCogNeat3's:

Then what is Christ to do with you? Are you saying with one response that you prefer Hell but with the next statement praying the prayer of admission to Heaven? To make the first statement points to self and self-centeredness. The Desert Fathers tell us in one place of a highly respected father who, on his deathbed, told his brothers that he went to the Judgment Seat not knowing if he had begun to live the Christian life but also confidant of the infinite mercy of Christ. And the story ends with "he was made perfect." This is the true humility that we are called to as followers of Christ.

Beware of false humility. That is the claim that moves beyond what the virtue is all about. The point is that no one of his own accord has any claim. But Christ Himself came here and went through a lot to save you. And He'd have done it if you were the only one in all creation that needed Him. He didn't come to save a "bunch" of people. He came to save us one at a time in and through His Life-giving Passion, Precious Death, Glorious Resurrection, and He's coming back to take you with Him. Don't deny that He thinks you're worth a lot, because He "coats" us with His Precious Blood, the only acceptable garment in the Father's Sight.

Besides, I'll bet that unless you're some nasty hermit that no one on earth has a kind word for--and I've met a couple of those in my work--there'll be plenty of people stepping forward on your behalf.

In Christ,

BOB

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Bob,

You and I must have a kindred spirit...beyond the Holy Spirit wink...because you frequently post things that are either in my thoughts or have played a significant role in my formation. The scenario you outlined in your post is one I have played over and over and over again...asking the very same questions you asked...wondering the same things you wondered in your post.

At the judgment...I wish I would be able to be silent...and hope that others would step forward on my behalf. But it is not only the words of others that shall condemn or vindicate us. Jesus said that by your *own* words you will be judged. So, I take that to mean that, when the moment comes, silence will not be an option. Perhaps nothing more will be required of us than to answer "yes" to Jesus' recitation of our faults and/or virtues. "Did you do such and such?", says Jesus. "Yes.", we answer. I don't think Jesus will play the mean (but well meaning) nun who insists on making us feel his full displeasure with us. Who could bear that?

I am not a Protestant...any longer...haven't been one "spiritually" for many many years...even though I've only been technically out of the Protestant fold for 7 years. But...and I am aware of all the subtle theological distinctions and questions about which virtues are involved...it seems to me that we Christians should have a firm hope...expectation even...of salvation. That is the attitude I find loudly sounded throughout the New Testament. Why pious people insist on emphasizing their unworthiness and the apparent unlikeliness of their eventual salvation...is beyond me. If we cannot anticipate our own salvation...then how can we possibly be among those who look forward with joy to Jesus' return...those who "long for his appearing"?

It is not a question of worthiness or unworthiness. We are all unworthy. That's the entire point. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

One last thing...I find it most perplexing that Jesus said, "No greater love has a man than that he lay down his life for his friends." Elsewhere Jesus is clear that even the Pharisees love those who love them, so loving those who love us is not automatically a virtue. What IS a virtue is loving those who hate us. Some will not like what I am about to suggest here...but here it is anyway...Jesus was speaking, obviously, of his own "laying down his life for his friends" when he made that statement. However, who does Jesus consider his "friends"? "But God commended his love toward us in that while we were YET SINNERS (enemies of God!)Christ died for us." Is not our Lord enjoining upon us to lay down our lives even for our enemies...calling them friends? I can only wonder what a broader realization of this might do for Catholic/Orthodox ecumenism.

Jason

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Is not our Lord enjoining upon us to lay down our lives even for our enemies...calling them friends?


Jason:

In a word, "yes."

My take on silence on our part is that speaking on one's own behalf is part of self-centeredness, something that is not trinitarian.

I do take some comfort in the idea about having others come forward because of some experiences I've had in my own pilgrimage. When I've been absolutely dry, absolutely unable to pray or pick up the Scriptures, or even hold a pious thought for a minute, people have been put in my path who have said "I'm praying for you," or "You lifted me up when I was down on the ground," or in some other way indicated that now that the shoe was on the other foot I had a Samaritan coming to bind up my woundedness.

For our brother above, Christ comes along for each of us as the Good Samaritan. And remember what "good" refers to in Old English--godly. (Hate those old English teachers, don't you?) When I hear that story, I see God as the Samaritan coming along to pick me up when the world, those around me, and the Enemy have left me beaten, broken, bloody, and feeling lifeless because of the events of life. And all of us can say that even family life and strife can make us feel that way because life is a process of wearing down and building up. Christ comes along in and through His Church with oil and wine for our wounds. Oil, the symbol of strength, and wine, the symbol of gladness, is given to us to build us back up. I'm not perfect and thank God I'm not. If I were, I'd have no need of God and that would be the ultimate poverty. As it is, I know I need a Savior more than He needs me, but it's a tremendous gift to know that He thinks He needs me as much or more. I ask myself sometimes when I prepare for confession why God would bother with me and the simple answer that He loves me leaves me completely in awe and wonder.

When we remember who we are and what price God has placed on us--He poured out the last drop of His Son's life on the Cross and then raised Jesus from the dead to show us that nothing can separate us from Him and His love but our own choice. HE's like a barnacle: we have to absolutely scrape Him off and reject Him utterly--but He's always ready to take us back no matter what. Gotta wrap my head around that one this Great Lent. The revelation came to me one day when I was looking down into a grave and "eyeing" whether the gravedigger had dug it deep enough: must have a two-foot overburden. "That hole ain't gonna hold this person or me either." It hit me like a thunderbolt. God will not let any of us there. He's promised and told us to trust Him. He's marked us out by Baptism and Chrismation and Himself in the Eucharist. We are His and He has made a covenant with us. He won't go back on His own promise. If we persevere, He will reward us far beyond anything we can see, or hear, or imagine.

He's called us to put on Christ--remember the Baptismal hymn. He's called us to put on the mind of Christ. Christ was silent before His accusers. I can be content with His example. I hope He can find something good in mine, but His judgments are not mine and I confidently wait for Him to tell me. In the meantime I'll continue in the way I was formed--picking up the people who are broken and seem to have lost their hope in the face of the death of their loved ones; encouraging those around me with what I've been given; and patiently waiting for someone with greater gifts to correct me and get me back on track.

And I'm going to be something of a joker, too. God doesn't want us to be dour saints. What we miss is that Jesus could have a good laugh and a good time, too. After all, He went to the wedding feast at Cana and probably danced with the bride if that were part of the culture. Somehow I don't see Jesus as some wallflower, rather as someone everyone could be attracted to because He was like us in all things but sin. To me that means He would have enjoyed a good meal, a good story, a great sunrise or sunset. Remember the Publican? He knew who he was and he went home justified. He probably didn't spend the rest of his life with his head down. He could confidently walk home knowing that the Most High was merciful and would continue to work with him, even as he was the example for us in how we need to approach God. Remember Jesus? He didn't grasp at Divinity but laid it aside at the Father's request of us.

So I don't take myself too seriously. If I can pick up another and edify him, I've done what I'm commanded to do. I admit I'm still struggling with that urge to pull the trap door lever on some people, but God's given me another day to wear down that rough edge. wink biggrin biggrin

In Christ,

BOB

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I had occasion to put this meditation to another priest some time ago. He just told me last evening that he's been using it in confession as something to consider for those who tell him that they have been hurt and cannot forgive.

He says he asks them to put themselves in the place of the one they would refuse to step up and ask the Lord to forgive and put the one who hurt them into their shoes: role reversal. Then he asks if they would like to be condemned forever or would they want to be forgiven. He says it has caused stunned looks and some sincere conversions of heart.

I think I'll use this idea of radical, unconditional forgiveness for my Great Lenten meditation this year. It's easy to step up on Forgiveness Sunday and forgive those around us, espcially if they are members of our parish who haven't really done us earth shaking harm. It's easy to go through the motions of the Forgiveness Sunday Vespers. But after the warm and fuzzy, taking it outside the church, how about those who have damaged our career, or our family life, or caused a marriage to break up, or been DUI and killed a member of our family--you get the picture; really shaken our place in the world and caused us life changing harm. How about forgiving them here and now once and for all and fighting any thoughts of anger or revenge by praying for them and for their salvation each time the thought of them comes up? I had a penance once from confession to do that until my next confession. What a struggle!!

In Christ,

BOB

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Our words spoken here on this earth while we are alive will condemn us. Our words of rash judgment are especially damning because we are not to judge others.

Our silence and our failure to forgive can also condemn us. I just finished reading Candles behind the Wall by Barbara Von Der Heydt. In that book the author shares the agonies which the people suffered upon meeting their former persecutors. Many found it very difficult to forgive, yet Christ demands this or we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Lord have mercy on me a sinner.

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Our silence and our failure to forgive can also condemn us. I just finished reading Candles behind the Wall by Barbara Von Der Heydt. In that book the author shares the agonies which the people suffered upon meeting their former persecutors. Many found it very difficult to forgive, yet Christ demands this or we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

EM:

That's why I thought I'd take this for a Great Lenten meditation and honestly spend some time each day rolling this around in my head and in my heart. And to be brutally honest, this can be a real soul searcher. I know it will take a great deal of focused work and Great Lent is a good time to set a time, set a discipline and focus, and to get started. It's easy to put this off and forget that we "know not the day nor the hour" when we will be asked for an accounting of how we have gforgiven.

For some people who have hurt me and genuinely worked to thwart things I hve tried to accomplish this is a mountain for me to climb and get over. I know up here in my head that this is what Christ wants me to do. However, in some cases, the distance from head to heart has seemed to be an eternity of distance.

Thanks for the valuable resource: Candles behind the Wall by Barbara Von Der Heydt.

Please keep me in your prayers,

BOB

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I picked up my copy for three dollars - in new condition from Amazon.com.

It talks about how Orthodox Christians, Catholics, and Protestants worked together with God's grace to free Russia from communism.
It was a miracle, no doubt about it.

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There was a family that lived next door to some of my older relatives as I was growing up. The mother of the family had to enter the hospital for nothing that was life-threatening. In those days, people were often placed in a "ward" because it was less expensive: rather than semi-private where you have one roommate, there might be a dozen beds separated only by curtains.

The woman was moved from one bed to another for some unknown reason.

In the middle of the night, without turning on a light, checking the chart to see who was in the bed, or otherwise checking, the night nurse gave this woman the third in a series of shots meant for another woman in the ward who had been in that bed and been moved, too. She was dead in the morning as a result of this mistake.

You know what that would have meant today with the injury lawyers advertising on TV almost every hour.

But this family simply said that this was the way that God wanted it and they insisted that there be no law suits, no punishment for the nurse, and no further mention made of it. They mourned deeply, but forgave radically.

I wonder if I could do the same. Could you?

BOB

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Should we be making a distinction between forgiving and over-
coming feelings of resentment? I myself am not clear on this.
What is it to forgive? Obviously it includes the refusal to
take revenge in any way, to pray for the salvation and temporal
well being of the person,to be willing to do good to him if
occasion arises (which we are already doing if we pray for him).
These are all matters of the will.

Resentment is a matter of the emotions. If I am properly disposed
toward the person as given above, and still feel resentment against him,have I truly forgiven him? My feelings are not a
matter of my will, although certainly I use it to try to avoid
calling the injuries suffered to mind. Is resentment in itself
culpable? It is certainly spiritually dangerous and unhealthy
and something of which we must seek to purge ourselves. But how
am we to do this, especially if we or ours have suffered some
very great wrong? I think that for most of us we must seek healing of our hearts from God.

Edmac

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I think that for most of us we must seek healing of our hearts from God.


Edmac:

I agree with you. I think that all of the struggles in the spiritual life need the guidance of one's spiritual father, since I believe that this pilgrimage of ours is not a "do-it-yourself" endeavor. There is always someone who can take an objective look when we place the details in his hands. When we cannot see the forest for the trees, the spiritual father can help us sort things out.

What I am aiming at when I speak of radical forgiveness is the complete letting go of the anger, resentment, the desire for revenge, and every other emotion that ties us to the wrong and keeps us from moving on.

The Desert Fathers have it: "When we dwell on the wrongs done to us by men, we sever our minds from being able to dwell on God."

In other words, dwelling on past wrongs hinders us in the use of the precious gift of time: from being spent in developing our relationship with Christ and fully using the grace that He is always sending our way to wasting it on dwelling on the wrong(s). We hurt ourselves and not the one who wronged us in the first place.

In Christ,

BOB

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Dear all,
I very much enjoyed reading these posts. This subject has been on my mind for quite some time. I am actually trying to do my thesis on the question of Forgiveness as a means for Conflict Resolution.
The one event that really turned my attention to the possibility of radical forgiveness was the killing of the little amish girls in 2006. The way the community reacted, changed the way I look at the question of forgiveness.

Before then, I always thought that true forgiveness, forgiveness in any circumstance, no matter what has been done to us, was something to aspire to, but a mark of only truly holy and great people.
However, what we saw in Pennsilvania was different. The Amish forgive by default. They are raised to believe that it is the only viable solution.
Since, as far as I know, the Amish are not genetically preconditioned to act this way, this means that potentially all comunities could have these priorities.
Yes, we should try to make this a goal in our personal lives, but certeinly we should take it one step further, and make this a cornerstone of our education, of our communities, of our political systems, of our families.
Will it take a long time? Sure... but can we honestly afford to take a different path?

I would like to hear your thoughts on this.

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This topic is essential for salvation.

"Love your enemies."

"Father, forgive them for they know not what they do."

"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us."

These are powerful words spoken by Christ - if we heed them, we live. If we ignore then we die.

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In light of the parable of the ten virgins, I would ask "Do you know me?"

Terry

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