Now all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him. And the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living.
When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything.
But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.
Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on.He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him.
But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’
Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Of all the extraordinary events in the life of John Paul II, few can compare with the 21 minutes he spent in a white-walled cell in Rome’s Rebibia prison. Just after Christmas, 1983, the pope visited Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who 30 months earlier had shot him in St. Peter’s Square. He presented Agca with a silver rosary and something else as well: his forgiveness.
While persistent unforgiveness is part of human nature, it works to the detriment not just of our spiritual well-being but our physical health as well. Holding onto anger has physical consequences—such as increased blood pressure and hormonal changes—linked to cardiovascular disease, immune suppression and, possibly, impaired neurological function and memory.
We can learn a lesson from nature. A rattlesnake, if cornered, will sometimes become so angry it will bite itself – exactly what happens when we harbor hate and resentment— we bring injury to ourselves. Or as comedian Buddy Hackett once confessed, “I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge. You know why? While you’re carrying a grudge, they’re out dancing.”
Forgiveness is really about letting go of our own suffering. Confucius no doubt understood this. He cautioned, “If you devote your life to seeking revenge, first dig two graves.” Forgiveness does not mean you agree with what the other person did to you. It does not mean you can change what happened or erase what they did. What’s done is done. All you can do is release yourself. Forgiveness is not something you do for someone else. It is a gift to yourself.
No wonder Jesus urges us to forgive and have mercy on our brother. Our God is a God of abundance who reminds us that “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
Begin by forgiving yourself; accept God’s mercy and ask for protection against the venom of unforgiveness.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Come home where the welcome runs to greet you. Come home to the fire that warms your soul. Return to the soul that bore your infant steps. Return to where I wait for you.
—Excerpted from the song “Come Home” by Bob Dufford, S.J., © 2005 OCP publications, Portland ORPlease share the Good Word with your friends!