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by Matthew Kelly
Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody
by Father Bob Sherry
We all have good days and bad days, and lots of average days. Do you know why? Sure, sometimes things just happen that our beyond our control—both good and bad. But if you had to make tomorrow a really fabulous day, how would you do it? And if you had to do it without doing anything different, just your ordinary everyday activities, how would you do it then?
People who are dying despise the way people who are not dying waste life. Too often the temptation is to wake up and just see what happens. Too often we just let life happen to us, rather than using our God-given abilities to make great things happen.
And yes, there are some days when you are just not yourself. Perhaps you have a cold or are just a bit tired. When we have a day like that we face one of the great differentiators in life. People who are able to step up and make things happen, even when they don’t feel like it, differentiate themselves from their peers in every human activity.
This month, I hope you have more good days than bad days, and very few average days.
We fail to capture the power of forgiveness because we are afraid of it, because we have grown comfortable in our familiar wounds, or because we are sinfully stubborn. But the power is there waiting for us.
— From “Everybody Needs to Forgive Somebody” by Dr. Allen Hunt
Imagine you meet a solider walking down the street in the first century. You see the sparkle in his eyes as he meets you. Joy radiates off his face as if he has won the lottery. You ask him why.
He shares that his work today started out in an ordinary way. He had no way of knowing that his day would turn and become special, a veritable red-letter day, a day to be celebrated. When the events unfolded, the soldier could barely contain his joy. Today he won a new coat.
The solider has just been looking for someone to tell the story to, to recount his remarkable good fortune and to show off his new coat. First, he stopped by the office to clock out for the day. He proudly turned and primped for his coworkers and the ladies who operated the home office. "Check it out! I am styling today. Get a load of this coat! I won it. Can you believe it?" The solider wanted everyone to see the spoils of his victory that day. The women at the office marveled at the beauty of his fine new coat.
After leaving the office to make his way home, the solider just had to stop by the tavern to show it to his buddies. He'd grab some wine and show off his new coat. This thing was special, and the soldier wanted to brag. "Check out this new coat I got today. Can you believe it? Look at the fabric. This is some coat!" His friends smiled, laughed, and patted him on the back. What a fine day indeed.
The soldier's enthusiasm bubbled over as he walked into his house. He knew his wife was not going to believe this one . . . a new coat, and such a finely crafted one at that. For soldiers, days like this were few and far between. "Honey, check it out. What do you think? Not a seam on this beauty. Can you believe that I won this at work?"
"That is a fine coat," she replied. "How'd you get it?"
"Well, it started like a regular day at work," he said. "Me and the fellows were out on the hill like we always are. I was minding my cross; Bart and Laz, they were minding theirs. I had a fellow up on mine who the crowd really hated for some reason. They yelled at him. They spat at him. They cussed, they mocked, and they even poked him with sticks. One guy went right up to the guy on my cross and stuck some vinegar on a sponge and stabbed it around his mouth. I mean, they really could not stand this guy. And the thing is, this guy hanging on my cross had a really nice coat. This beauty—I mean, look at it! So me and the boys decided to cast lots for this coat. Not a bad coat for an old Jew. We cast lots, and I won. Can you believe it? It is such a beauty. Everybody says so. Never seen any coat like it before."
Imagine you meet the soldier on the street, and he shares this story. Surely, you walk away wondering many things.
Why do you wonder? Because when you think about it, it really is remarkable, isn't it? Jesus died hanging on the cross, and as they cast lots for his garments, Jesus looked down at the soldier you just met and said, "Father, forgive them, for they don't know what they're doing." Jesus gazed into the eyes of this soldier, who gleefully looked forward to showing off his new coat. Then, Jesus forgave him.
As he undergoes an excruciating death, and is subjected to the humiliation of the crowd, Jesus actually pauses and offers forgiveness. Astonishing. He stares into the eyes of devil, darkness, and death, and rather than cowering or complaining about the pain, Jesus unlocks the doors of forgiveness right there in front of everyone. Wow.
In fact, when you read the Gospels, this much is clear: Jesus gets on this forgiveness thing, and just won't let it go. Everywhere Jesus goes, he either teaches about forgiveness or he offers it to someone. Zacchaeus. Peter. The woman at the well. The woman caught in adultery. When Jesus teaches his followers to pray, he tells them to ask for forgiveness and for the strength to forgive other people.
Every place you open the Gospels, Jesus is sounding the bugle of forgiveness. So much so that his first sermon is just one word, "Repent!" as he makes it plain that we need forgiveness. And his last words are uttered to the Father from the cross on behalf of the soldiers below. In other words, forgiveness provides the first and last word of Jesus' entire ministry. That alone teaches us how very important forgiveness is to our God. And how important it should be to us.
Forgiveness will unleash a power in your life that is underrated and often ignored. It is underrated mainly because it is underused. We fail to capture the power of forgiveness because we are afraid of it, because we have grown comfortable in our familiar wounds, or because we are sinfully stubborn. But the power is there waiting for us. That is why I have written this little book. Because everybody needs to forgive somebody. And Jesus shows us how.
The phrase “become the-best-version-of-yourself” is such a huge part of Dynamic Catholic and Matthew Kelly’s work that it has its own registered trademark. And Lent reigns as the prime season to become the-best-version-of-yourself, with the grace of God.
Last month I suggested that Lent and the four signs of a dynamic Catholic were made for each other, and that they express the genius of Catholicism. Let’s take this a step further.
There are four types of prayer: Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. (I use the acronym ACTS to help me remember them.) Which form of prayer will you focus on during Lent? I’m focusing on Contrition. Lent is a time of repentance, anther word for contrition, confession, and reconciliation. And I need contrition.
Contrition without a change in behavior leads to more sin. One of the prayers on Ash Wednesday said, “we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.” I need to study more about restraints for my sins. I’m rereading The Book of Courage. What do you need to study?
In the Gospel reading on Ash Wednesday, we heard that Jesus expects us to perform righteous deeds of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting. Can a person give alms without being generous? Certainly. But can a person be generous and not give alms? Hardly! Maybe this is the Lent to add that 1 percent to your tithe, or adopt a child, or plan to give up a year of your life in service to others. Take an inventory of your goods and gifts. Do something generous this Lent without your left hand knowing what your right hand is doing.
Yes, Evangelization. “. . . I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19). Jesus did not try to save the whole world. He caught 12 people, made them his apostles, and showed them the kingdom of heaven. “Go out and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). Could you adopt the goal of bringing just 12 people to God in your lifetime?
Incorporate these four signs into your Lenten journey and you’ll surely become a-better-version-of-yourself.
“Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord? I have heard You calling in the night. I will go Lord, if You lead me. I will hold Your people in my heart.”
I still remember that January night . . . I pulled into a parking spot at my apartment in Los Angeles and prayed, “Lord, I feel this call to do something for you full-time, but I don’t see myself quitting my marketing job and moving to another country to serve the poor. What is it that you want me to do?”
I had been living in L.A. for almost eight years, and honestly, I was perfectly content. I had a great career. I was living near all of my friends. And I loved the almost-always-sunny, 70-degree beach weather. Why rock the boat, right?
Well it wasn’t too long before Jesus allowed me to experience a storm that rocked that boat.
A few weeks after my prayer for direction, I had the opportunity to attend a Dynamic Catholic Living Every Day with Passion & Purpose event in my area. I had attended this event a couple years earlier, but I was so inspired by that first event that I wanted—I needed—to go again. This time, I brought a few friends who were also trying to discern direction for their lives.
At the event, each person received a bag full of free resources. As I looked through the materials in the swag bag, two things caught my attention: the Thomas Merton prayer in Session One of the DECISION POINT© workbook, and a quote on the front of the journal. The quote said, “People don’t do anything until they are inspired. But once they are inspired, there is almost nothing they will not do. Are you ready to be inspired?”
My eyes gleamed with tears as I read both the prayer and that quote—it was the cry of my heart.
After the event—still experiencing an inspiration hangover—I continued asking Jesus to give me the wisdom and courage to walk the path He planned for me. I started applying for marketing jobs in Chicago because I was ready to move back to where I grew up and be close to my family again.
One week later, I received a “Dynamic Catholic Is Hiring!” email. Curious about what positions the nonprofit organization was offering, I opened it. I had no intention of applying for a job in the northern Kentucky area, but when I saw a marketing position in the department that creates sacramental prep programs to help re-energize the Catholic Church of America, I was intrigued. It wouldn’t hurt to apply, but was I ready to give up my corporate life and start all over again?
I guess so, because six months later, I joined the Dynamic Catholic team.
Today I attended Mass in the chapel here at our office. My heart was filled with love for my colleagues as the space was overflowing with people, thirsty for the love of Christ. I feel so blessed to work and serve with faithful, talented, and hard-working individuals!
Every day I am grateful for the inspiration Jesus planted in my heart on my journey to Dynamic Catholic. Because of that inspiration, I had the strength and the courage to say, “Here I am, Lord. I will go, if you lead me. Amen.”
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Making time for each other isn’t that difficult if you think about how to anchor the time around already established routines at home.
Life is short, and the holidays fly by. Don’t waste this time texting your friends about how crazy your family is making you (even if it’s true). Do your best to be present to them, seek to understand and to love.
Waking up early is a war. It is a battle against the self. You are your enemy. And there is only one way to win the war: Discipline.
When you choose to be the-best-version-of-yourself, when you exercise virtue and strength of character, you impact the world more than you will ever know.