Friday, April 10, 2009

Forgiveness Means Forgetting, Too

Spending Holy Week with friends who work for Care Foundation for Children and Aging, a Catholic charity in Hyderabad, is wonderful. Holy Thursday (or Maundy Thursday as we refer to it in US) was an outdoor Mass at Sacred Heart Church, with five priests and 3000 parishioners. At the end of the two hour service, big, beautiful hot cross buns were distributed to everyone. Buns were donated by families, with one family giving 2000; it was truly a Manna Moment!

After 6 this morning, we drove to St. Joseph’s Cathedral for a live Passion Play. Again, outdoors, again, lots of people. The actors were in very believable costumes. The Roman soldiers whipped Jesus for about 20 minutes. While the whips were made of braided cloth, the snapping we heard was real. Welts were really coming up on the actor. Later, I learned he had fasted for 40 days prior to this Tableau, to prepare for the part.

Sitting with a new friend, Sister Johncy, who is a sister in the Holy Family Congregation, we both cried. It was so hard to see the whipping. Somehow, in the hot sun of the East, the story became more real. I was thinking of the sanitized Maundy Thursday programs I have participated in at St. Paul’s in Barton, Vermont. Playing Veronica, I simply gesture offstage to the imagined Jesus. We have not included the cruelty done unto him as part of our presentation. I don’t espouse violence at all, but seeing this man stagger carrying his cross was searing.

Afterwards, Sister Johncy and Clement, a former nun who works as a CFCA social worker, and I talked about the Passion of Christ. Typically, the Passion is interpreted as his suffering, but we began to think that Jesus’ Passion is really that he loves us so much, he was willing to suffer. His Passion Is Love.

We also discussed he profound message of forgiveness. CFCA director Suresh ( said that, in the days of Jesus, when he said, “forgive 70 times 7,” it is the equivalent of our saying today, “forgive a million times.” Lately, I have been meditating on the idea of forgiveness, total forgiveness. So, it was no accident that I received an email this Good Friday from a friend that reads, in part:

“I understand the forgiveness thing and the judging thing. I went to confession yesterday, just for mainly that reason. Funny that we are both battling the same. The priest told me to spend more time in prayer, that we are humans and the devil likes to get hold of us. He said to pray all the time to not let those weaknesses take over. My dilemma is that I feel like I have forgiven someone for being a jerk, as we have all done jerky things, but I can't seem to forget. Does it mean that one has not forgiven if they can not forget????? I know others have life long painful instances that that keep going back to.”

Today, after watching the play and seeing Jesus ask that his crucifiers be forgiven, because they didn’t know what they were doing, I can answer my friend’s question more clearly.

YES, I think true, total forgiveness means forgetting, as well. Forgetting in the sense that we don’t keep the memory alive as a way of separating ourselves from the person who hurt us. I do think we must learn from abusive events, and develop ways of protecting ourselves and avoiding harm’s way. In some instances, that means we no longer associate with certain people. But we still move on, forgiving and forgetting. We see their behavior as being committed by a damaged soul, someone who was also hurt and damaged. Our abusers are not aware, not fully awake to the beauty of life, to the connection we share. They don’t know that we are each other’s keeper, that we are part of a larger family.

On Wednesday, I spent time at a CFCA Mothers’ Group, teaching some yogic breathing and encouraging these lovely women to stay positive and motivated about the important work they do in their families. Looking into their eyes, sometimes seeing despair and fear, other times exhaustion yet hope, I felt so close, so connected.

How can I not forgive and forget those who aren’t aware of this connection? To not forgive and forget, I think, I keep myself small, and identify too much with the person who abused or hurt me. They put distance between people, which allows them to hurt others. I don’t want to emulate them. I prefer to follow Jesus.
p.s. hope you will continue to read the ongoing conversation in an earlier posting below, started April 9, here.

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