In any situation where groups of people come together, whether it be a family, school or in business, tensions can exist, some creative others less so. Charting a way through these can be problematic. I remember one not particularly helpful conversation with a youngster who said, “It’s not that I can’t forgive her; I can only do this if I get even”. We might recognise this as the proverbial “pound of flesh”. The term, “pound of flesh” originates from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and is central to the plot. A pound of flesh is something which is owed, that is ruthlessly required to be paid back. The figurative use of the phrase really speaks about an unreasonable request and having overtones of revenge.
I am no different from anyone else; forgiveness is difficult, reconciliation can be even harder still. I am minded of the quote from CS Lewis “Everyone thinks forgiveness is a lovely idea until he has something to forgive.” We may know intellectually that forgiveness is the only real, workable way by which to find healing and peace, but our emotions can often drive a different logic. History is littered with events where retribution is dealt out in the misguided hope that passing back the hurt on others will somehow facilitate healing. While Jesus would counsel us to turn a cheek, offer up a cloak and travel the extra mile, we stubbornly demand eyes and teeth and the proverbial pound of flesh.
True forgiveness is found through reconciliation. I was struggling to find something to write about this week until I visited the chapel and witnessed the large number of youngsters who had accepted an invitation to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. (Over Lent I had made a commitment to write more regularly!) That experience promoted me to write this blog. During Lent we invite priests from across the Diocese and wider to provide the Sacrament. I am always grateful for the support they provide and by the time we reach Friday, somewhere close to 700 students will have experienced this life filling Sacrament.
Jesus clearly warned that God will not forgive our sins if we do not forgive those who sin against us. Someone once said “Forgiveness means letting go of the past, but reconciliation is about committing to a future”, this is something intrinsically wound into the Gospel message of Jesus Christ and this important Sacrament.