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Forgiveness Reunites

On this Tuesday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Today we read about forgiveness.  Specifically, the reading describes how Joseph—stripped and thrown into a cistern and then sold into slavery by his jealous brothers—is now in a position of authority in Egypt with the means to make or break his siblings during a time of extreme famine.

Joseph ultimately forgives his brothers for their offenses—but not before playing some cruel pranks on them.  He doesn’t reveal himself to them until well into their second visit, and only after first imprisoning one brother and then framing their youngest brother for the crime of theft.

I can appreciate what Joseph did.  More than a few times have I felt slighted by some minor offense or insult.  I am usually faced with two choices:  forgive or hold a grudge.  Often I choose the first option—forgiveness—but only on my terms, and only after I have exacted some minor revenge or other form of self-satisfaction.

Take for example the commute to and from work.  I have to admit some of my ugliest moments occur in the car and my least Christ-like behavior takes place behind the steering wheel.  For instance, someone might cut me off in his hurry to get somewhere.  It wasn’t that long ago that I might react in anger—not overtly dangerously, but still not safely either.

But I still, at times, find myself reacting immaturely, and I find it difficult to surrender the immediate grudge that the minor offense ignites.  Rather than give up the anger immediately—turning it over to Christ—I tell Him, “I’ll forgive that other driver, but just give me one moment of self-satisfaction.”  Usually that moment takes the form of an angry-yet-superior look when I pass by the driver, glancing over with condescension.

When I find myself doing this, I remind myself of that petition in the Lord’s Prayer:

And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.  Matt. 6:12.

In that prayer, I am asking for God’s forgiveness to the same extent and quality that I offer mine to others.  So for each brief moment I hold a grudge, I am asking God to hold a grudge against me.  And I remember that to God a thousand years is a day.  So that one-minute grudge in traffic might cost me over eight months in Purgatory!

Instead of holding onto that grudge, I need to look at how Jesus handled all the insults and abuses heaped on Him—falsely accused, scourged, crowned with thorns, forced to carry His cross, stripped and then hanged on a cross. How did He respond?

“Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”  Luke 23:34.

After all the severe beating He endured, He begs for the forgiveness of His tormentors.  And I can’t let go of a petty grudge?!

Day 21-1

Petty or great, nothing I endure compares to the suffering Christ endured for my sins.  He doesn’t hold a grudge because of the suffering my sins have caused Him.  Am I one for whom He begs His Father’s forgiveness?

Once Joseph forgives his brothers and reveals himself to them, the true healing begins within his family.Day 21-2


No Obstacles for God

On this Monday of the Third Week of Lent, I continue my journey through Scott Hahn’s book, Lenten Reflections from A Father Who Keeps His Promises.

Today’s reading focuses on the story of Joseph, Jacob’s son, and God’s faithfulness throughout Joseph’s struggles.  This is the perfect opportunity for a shout-out to my nieces in their recent production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.  I wish I could have made it to the performance!

“When it rains, it pours.”

“Bad things happen in threes.”

Just a couple of adages that make the point that when a situation goes sour, it tends to do so in a cascading fashion.

Joseph experienced this phenomenon.  He was the favored son of a powerful man.  But then things went south in a hurry.  His jealous brothers stripped him—of the beautiful garment his father bought especially for him!—and threw him in a cistern.  Then they sold Joseph into slavery.  To make matters worse, when his situation appeared to improve he was falsely accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife and thrown into prison!

But God did not leave Joseph in prison.  He had blessed Joseph with the gift of interpreting dreams, which Joseph used faithfully, recognizing God as the source of his gift.  And because Joseph was faithful with his talents, God blessed him as Pharoah’s right hand man.

Along with the ability to interpret dreams, one of Joseph’s greatest talents was his ability to recognize his blessings throughout his hardships—those blessings he currently enjoyed and those he knew God was yet to provide.

A friend of mine once explained the Jewish song Dayenu, which is sung to celebrate Passover.  I think this song well reflects the attitude of gratitude that helps survive difficulties in life.

Dayenu means “it would have been enough“, or “it suffices.”  The song lists fifteen gifts from God to His people and after each gift, Dayenu.  So for example,

If He had brought us out from Egypt,

and had not carried out judgments against them

— Dayenu, it would have sufficed!

Instead of grieving a perceived slight—“if only God would have . . . “—it focuses on the abundance of blessings God pours out.  “If you had stopped short of the wonderful blessings you’ve given me, Lord, that would have been enough!”

But for me it does more than that—it also reminds me that God has proven, day after day after day, that He can deliver me from my difficulties and that He does, often in wonderful ways!

Day 20-1

The Passover song lists fifteen gifts God gave His people in delivering them from Egypt.  What countless blessings has God given me that I should recognize in a similar way?  I think the ultimate stanza might be:  “If You had only given me Your only begotten Son who suffered, died and rose again for my sins, Dayenu!”  All else means nothing.Day 20-2

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