Lent is a time of taking on duties and giving up pleasures. It is also a time for accepting the gifts God gives, and letting go of our control of the world. In Lent, Jesus stepped into the wilderness, not knowing what would come, but allowing God to direct his path.
Today’s reading tells us of the wonders of forgiveness. It is not a forgetting of what has gone before, but a surrender of the future; a commitment not to be ruled by old ways and old relationships. Forgiveness means allowing a new and better relationship to grow in place of the old one. We clothe ourselves in love, by letting go of our expectations and demands from others and opening ourselves up to new possibilities.
It can be tempting to “forgive and forget,” to simply accept a broken relationship and dwell in the brokenness, perhaps numbing over the troubling parts. I believe we are called to more than that, though. Healing comes from giving up the old ways of doing things, the old resistance to hurts, but also the old acceptance of unhealthy ways of being together. Healing comes when we forge new relationships with loving boundaries.
When I ask God to forgive me, I want more than God’s ignorance. I want God to actively lead me into the promised time of wholeness, fulfillment. So I also work with those I have wronged – and who have wronged me – so that we might find a new and better friendship. It takes patience and imagination, but it also opens me up to ways of being in community that I could not have imagined on my own.
Give others the benefit of the doubt; trust that they too are looking for healing and good relationships, even when they haven’t the skill or imagination to know what they might look like. Clothe yourself in openness and joyful abandon to God, even in the wilderness, so that you might live in wonder and see every new opportunity when it arrives. We must avoid the traps of vengeance and oblivion, both of which hold us in the past and in the path of disharmony. We must also avoid the trap of imagining a future that does not exist. Rather, let us try to live in the present, where hope, faith, and love can open the doors to radically new and strangely fulfilling ways of being together. And let us give thanks to God, whose emptying of himself allows us to fill up the Kingdom together.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
(A Prayer of St. Francis)