Forgive us our trespasses…

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It’s one thing to come to Mass each week, and be satisfied that we’ve fulfilled our obligation to God, and some of us might even call themselves devout, and holy Catholics. Today’s Epistle, however, challenges each of us at our core and insists on the “conversion of heart” that will help us sustain healthy relationships in our families, our neighborhoods and even in our church. It makes sense to me that when we are right with God our lives run more smoothly and much more pleasantly.

St. Paul lists some virtues that grow from our conversion – compassion, kindness, etc., and yes, we experience deeper levels of conversion many times! I’ve often wondered which of these, listed above, is more difficult to realize. They all require our cooperation and discipline. Of course, much will depend on our temperament, our family background, and our choices, especially choices that we repeat many times. Personally, I believe that forgiveness is the key to the others. Besides Gospel teachings, psychological research has found that forgiveness is a major key to healthy relationships. After all, we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”

Some women are afraid that being forgiving, compassionate, patient and humble will inevitably lead to being abused, physically, psychologically, emotionally or spiritually. Nothing is further from the truth – Jesus simply asked that we love. The irony of this common belief is that St. Paul usually preached to men – some of them were misusing their power – and his messages were often focused on their spiritual status as leaders of the church and the heads of their families. Perhaps men of his time struggled with the word “gentleness;” however one classical definition of that word reads “restrained strength for the sake of those who are weaker.”

In our era, men, women, children and youth claim and use power – or gentleness – to influence their relationships, so it’s good to think about what they mean in our everyday lives. We know in our hearts that forgiveness is always needed, and that St. Paul’s message is meaningful for our times.

Dorothy Hathway, CSJA