These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
Scripture (Matthew 16:13-19)
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
"Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"
They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Years ago, on a retreat the leaders showed us a clip from the movie the Mission. During this scene a slave trader and mercenary, Rodrigo Mendoza, carried his armor and tools of war up a waterfall to the indigenous people he had captured and sold into slavery. Due to the dangers of climbing the falls, the group of Jesuits climbing with him, the members of the group were connected by safety ropes. When he fell under the weight of his baggage not only would he fall, his companions would be dragged down also. At one moment one Jesuit became so frustrated with how this baggage was slowing down the group he cut it off Rodrigo and pushed it back to the bottom of the falls. Only to watch Rodrigo go down and tie it around himself again. After much struggle and danger to himself and his colleagues Rodrigo reached the top of fall and was greeted by the indigenous people. The people recognized him immediately and brought a knife to his throat- only to cut him free. They threw his armor over the cliff and watched it land in the river to be washed away.
The baggage of armor and weapons was symbolic of Rodrigo’s sins. They were the tools with which he murdered and dehumanized others. And it had a dehumanizing impact on Rodrigo as well. In Rodrigo’s case what held him bound up was set loose by the people he had wounded. Being forgiven, set him free, brought him forgiveness, healing and a new life. Later in the movie Rodrigo becomes a Jesuit priest. All of us have been hurt by another person. Although this Scripture passage usually focuses on ability of the priest to offer absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, it also should challenge us to forgive others. We offer forgiveness not just for those who have hurt us, but it can also free us from the pain, anger and resentment that binds us.
One of the most challenging parts of my faith life has been my betrayal of those most important to me. The guilt from this action has been with me for years. Like Rodrigo, carrying his baggage, this guilt has been destructive to myself and others. Sorrow and repentance didn’t seem to bring relief. The reason is because I have lacked the ability to forgive myself. Besides loosening the bands that keep others bound, we have to be willing to forgive ourselves. For myself it was a matter of ego. There was never a doubt that God forgave me, but I could not accept it. It takes humility to confess sin and acknowledge that one cannot save themselves. We are forgiven by the grace and mercy of God. When we humbly accept that grace it is the first step of forgiving and freeing ourselves.
Jesus tells Peter that the keys to kingdom are related to the ability to forgive. Perhaps we could rephrase this last section of the Gospel and say If you want to live in the Kingdom of God accept and offer the freedom of His forgiveness.
- What anger, resentment and pain do you need to resolve to find peace?
- Whom can you free by offering them forgiveness?
- How is the kingdom of God at hand in your life?
FAST from resentment and anger.
PRAY by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation or write a letter to God asking for forgiveness.
GIVE peace to someone who has hurt you.
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University. He is married to Maribeth. Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.