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Forgiveness – integral to life and society

by Vernon Khelawan

Trinidad and Tobago, in more ways than one, is standing on the edge of a very deep precipice. And many of us are afraid to speak out in faith. Many of us are scared stiff. Some readers may believe it is better to remain quiet, say nothing and figure that plenty of prayers will eventually right everything that’s wrong in our society. Sweep our problems under the rug.

I suspect that a few readers of this column are disappointed with the tenor of the writing and would much prefer if the column would stay away from the negativity that it sometimes portrays. Pointing out what’s wrong with the society shouldn’t be the mission of the Church, they believe.

This week I will talk about the delight that is forgiveness, but first, a psalm from Micah 7:18–19 which says: “Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance: Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency: And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?”

The psalmist portrays God as one of compassion and is quite in opposition to the pagan gods of that time. They were angry, exacting and cruel at worst and silent and indifferent at best. But who is this God who can’t stay angry because He delights in forgiveness and redemption of humanity?

Writing in Living Faith, Jessica Griffith proffers, “We may not be pagans, but we have our own false gods and they too, are without compassion. Our vices, addictions and misplaced worship may provide some short-term comfort, but they’ll never love us back. There is no life in them. They won’t answer and they can’t save.”

But this does not only apply to today. If we read Mark 8:2, we will see that Jesus constantly reminded His disciples “Do you still not understand? And that’s when Jesus walked this earth more than 2000 years ago. Like the disciples, we need to be reminded from time to time who we are as Catholics and what we are capable of in terms of leading good lives.

Forgiveness is an integral part of that life. But as our archbishop said earlier in the week “we have become a very stingy society” and he is so right. For sincere forgiveness plays a lesser and lesser part in our society. But the bad part is we don’t seem to be stopping there, as he said we have become very “self-centred”, so forgiveness is fast becoming a thing of the past.

We seem to have forgotten that God holds us accountable for each other’s lives. And as Nancy Summers reminded us in Living Faith, she wrote, “We are one family on earth and we will face our destiny together. Being accountable for human life should put us in touch with planetary issues of war and peace, abortion, protection of the environment, nuclear proliferation, starvation, health and epidemics and the urgent need for spiritual reawakening in the human race.”

She continued, “Perhaps this is the task of humanity now—to build a life-giving, life-protecting and life-enhancing community. May we not be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this vision but strive to do our part to realise it.”

So if we can somehow find it in our hearts to warm to forgiveness, then we would have made a great start in transforming our unforgiving society.