Friday, March 18, 2022
Feast of Saint Cyril of Jerusalem
Dear Sisters and Brothers in the Lord,
It began in 1935 in Akron, Ohio, as the outcome of a meeting between a local surgeon and a New York stockbroker. What did these two men have in common? Both were reformed alcoholics who felt drawn to share their experience with others whose lives were still being ruined by drink. Thus, was born Alcoholics Anonymous.
Today it is estimated that there are over two million people worldwide following AA’s 12 Step Program to sobriety. The eighth step of the program asks the recovering alcoholic to make a list of all the people they have harmed through their drinking and then to be willing to make amends to them all.
It’s not easy to say sorry. We all know that. But just like the founders of AA, we also know it’s necessary if we are to grow in love for our neighbor, and of God, as we journey together as disciples on The Way.
This is our final week focusing on the theme of Repentance. Let’s re-cap where we’ve been for those who are joining us anew. We have spent the last three weeks reflecting on the importance of examining our consciences, praying an Act of Contrition, and finally, seeking forgiveness of our sins from God through the beautiful Sacrament of Confession. Hence, this week we will focus on the blessings of a contrite heart when we apologize to our neighbor.
We receive spiritual strength and grace every time we participate in the Sacrament of Confession. Our hearts soften and become more open to God’s will in our lives. A very similar softening of our hearts happens when we are able to apologize to someone we have hurt such as a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, or a colleague. Our hearts harden to God when we harbor resentment or damage a relationship that could be repaired by being too prideful to apologize.
When I’ve reflected on Peter’s denial of Jesus, I can’t even imagine the suffering he endured knowing that he had denied his friend as Jesus was being tortured and killed. Peter had no opportunity to make it right with Jesus. I’m sure he carried quite a bit of guilt as a result. I imagine that Peter, even in his joy at seeing the resurrected Christ, may have also been a bit concerned about his future relationship with the Lord. In that circumstance, I certainly would have been wondering, “Okay, when is Jesus going to ask me about that whole denial thing? There’s no way he could ever forgive me for that!”
But Jesus, in his infinite mercy, takes Peter aside and gives him the opportunity to apologize by simply asking three times, the same number of times Peter denied Him, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15,16,17)
If we ever struggle with saying the words “I’m sorry” to someone we know we have hurt, simply picture that person looking as us and asking us, “Do you love me?” We are called to love one another as Jesus loves us. It takes courage to die to ourselves and to say sincerely, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” But in doing so we will show our Christian love for our neighbor as Jesus commands us to do. Our apology is the first step toward repairing the relationship. Our contrite heart will be softened to allow God to work ever more fully through us, and our apology will also have the potential to bless the other person in the same way.
Hence, my challenge this week: I want each of us to reflect on a wrong we have committed toward someone and apologize to that person from the heart.
We should first take this challenge to prayer. Ask God to give us light: Lord, to whom should I apologize? Lord, what do you want me to say to that person? Lord, please give me the courage do this. We might also ask our Guardian Angel to pave the way for our conversation with that other person.
If, for some reason, no living person comes to mind, there is maybe someone who is already deceased whom we have never forgiven. Perhaps that person needs our sorry.
Please be assured of my prayers for the days ahead. We can do this! Together.
See you next week as we continue our pilgrimage as Disciples Together on the Way. Until then, may God bless you throughout this coming week, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
+ Earl Boyea
Bishop of Lansing