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The Spirit Of Forgiveness

Pentecost Sunday (A)

My dear encountered couples:

When the Holy Spirit came on that first Pentecost he made his presence known by the noise of a strong, driving wind and by the appearance of tongues of fire upon the apostles and disciples. Few of us are given any signs like those. We more than likely find ourselves having to take it on faith that the Holy Spirit is present with us and in us. He remains quiet and unassuming in the lives of most of us. Like calories in our food the Holy Spirit only becomes visible in the results of his activities. Unlike the calories, the results of the activity of the Holy Spirit can only be seen by the spiritually, trained eye. Anybody can see a body change and grow from calories, only the spiritual person can perceive movements and growth in a soul.

You have the Holy Spirit. He who was promised and given to the apostles and the disciples of Jesus lives within you. As he directed them where to go and what to do, he is also doing the same for you. As he reminded them of the things Christ taught and helped them to more clearly understand those teachings and live them, the Holy Spirit is doing the same for you. The results of his work depend on how interested and docile you are to his activities.

Docile.” That means teachable, manageable, open for change. The results of the work of the Holy Spirit in you and in your life, depend on whether and how much you want him and allow him to guide and direct you. The results of the activities of the Holy Spirit in regard to you depend on you. Either you give him permission or you don’t. And the degree of permission is yours to control. When he whistles do you pay attention? Or like the dog that is busy about many smells and curiosities, do you respond to the Holy Spirit only when you feel like it? Do you leave him calling you and speaking to you like he’s talking to the wall? I doubt that there is any person in the world more frustrated than the Holy Spirit. Getting through to us must be a very trying experience for him.

One of the ways you might discover how open you are to the Holy Spirit is how much you find yourself willing to forgive people. We all have people who have offended us. If there is no one who really offends us, we seem to manage to invent one. We have a tendency to blame people for things whether they are guilty or not. How forgiving do you find yourself?

When Jesus breathed on the disciples whom he came to through those locked doors, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Those few words of Jesus are often quoted in regard to priests being given the power to forgive sins in the name of Jesus through what we call the Sacrament of Penance or Confession. But why do we limit his words to that meaning and those results only? Why don’t they extend to all of us?

The Holy Spirit is given to each of us to make it possible for us to forgive people who have offended us, who have sinned against us. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for you to forgive even the most atrocious of your enemies.

But the choice is left in your hands. “If you forgive them,” as said Jesus, “they are forgiven.” “If you hold them bound, if you choose not to forgive them, they remain unforgiven,” - at least as far as you are concerned.

When you find yourself moved, as it were, by your conscience to forgive people no matter what they have done to you, if you find yourself sincerely trying to forgive others their offenses against you that is a sign that you are open to the workings of the Holy Spirit within you. No matter how often feelings of anger against them well up in you, no matter how many times you are filled with desires for getting even, when you find yourself sincerely trying over and over to forgive, then you can be sure you are allowing the Holy Spirit to work successfully within you. Your repeated efforts to curb your anger and harness your desires for revenge show that you are docile to the Holy Spirit in your life.

Even when something you thought you forgave someone for years ago comes back into your mind and makes you angry, the Holy Spirit is right with you to help you forgive again. Our growth in becoming forgiving people is often a very slow process. It might take us many efforts at forgiving over many years before we reach the pinnacle of success. And we might not quite reach it until we are face to face with Jesus Christ and see in his eyes the love and warmth that moves him to forgive us our many offenses.

In the meantime, we do what we can. Without the Holy Spirit, I doubt that we can do much at all in the area of forgiveness. It seems to go against our ordinary human ways. “An eye for an eye” is the human cry heard down through the ages. We even tend to want much more than an “eye for an eye.” The Holy Spirit is the one who tries to help us understand why we should forgive others, he is the one who gives us the ability to forgive. The Holy Spirit even helps us to forgive ourselves.

And so, on this feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit is not noisy or obvious in your life, if you are wondering whether he is with you or not, whether you are docile and open to him or not, look to your efforts at forgiveness.

Receive the Holy Spirit,” Jesus said. “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

But before I end, let me tell you. The ones most bound by the shackles of sin are those who refuse to forgive. They are without the Holy Spirit, without love, without God, without peace. You have the Spirit. Please let him do his thing within you.

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