Documentary to air on Salt and Light Television
Sunday March 22 & 29, 2014
Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB
Forgiveness is one of the hardest things we’re asked to do, in terms of our relationships with other people. Even the best people have a hard time getting to forgiveness, being able to forgive themselves for what they’ve done or what they’ve failed to do. People around the world, from all cultures and traditions, embrace love and forgiveness in daily life. These values are universally viewed as central to the fabric of humanity. However we define forgiveness, its power is real — and never more so when it struggles with the unforgivable.
Some say forgiveness is “a shift in thinking” toward someone who has wronged us, “such that our desire to harm that person has decreased and our desire to do him or her good (or to benefit our relationship) has increased.”
Forgiveness is a decision to let go of the desire for revenge and ill-will toward the person who wronged us. It may also include feelings of goodwill toward the other person. Forgiveness is also a natural resolution of the grief process, which is the necessary acknowledgment of pain and loss.
Forgiveness is not condoning or excusing. Forgiveness does not minimize, justify, or excuse the wrong that was done. Forgiveness also does not mean denying the harm and the feelings that the injustice produced. And forgiveness does not mean putting oneself in a position to be harmed again. Focusing on forgetting a wrong might lead to denying or suppressing feelings about it, which is not the same as forgiveness. Forgiveness has taken place when we can remember the wrong that was done without feeling resentment or a desire to pursue revenge.
Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. Forgiveness is one person’s inner response to another’s perceived injustice. Reconciliation is two people coming together in mutual respect. Reconciliation requires both parties working together. Forgiveness is something that is entirely up to us. Although reconciliation may follow forgiveness, it is possible to forgive without re-establishing or continuing the relationship. The person we forgive may be deceased or no longer part of our life.
While the Christian ethos of forgiveness is still on some level widely honored as an ideal in North America today, it is not well understood, and uncomfortably coexists with equal or greater acceptance of an ethos of vengeance, one celebrated in far more movies than forgiveness.
What you are about to see is a powerful two-part documentary that will challenge our understanding of forgiveness.Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate was written, produced and directed by Helen Whitney. We at Salt and Light television are very grateful to Executive producer Paul Dietrich for sharing this provocative documentary with us. Parts one and two of the documentary provide an intimate look into the spontaneous outpouring of forgiveness: from the Amish families for the 2006 shooting of their children in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania; the struggle of '60s radicals to cope with the serious consequences of their violent acts of protest; the shattering of a family after the mother abandons them, only to return seeking forgiveness; the legacy and divisiveness of apartheid and the aftermath of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in South Africa; the penitential journey of a modern-day Germany, confronting the horrific acts of the Holocaust; and the riveting stories of survivors of the unimaginably, brutal Rwandan genocide.
The theme of forgiveness is central to the Petrine Ministry of Pope Francis. The Pope draws our attention to the remarkable and provocative Gospel of Luke where Jesus speaks about forgiveness, and he advises us to never tire of forgiving: always forgive! Pope Francis says that Jesus “exaggerates in order to help us understand the importance of forgiveness." “A Christian," says Pope Francis, “who is incapable of forgiving, sins isn’t a Christian; …if you cannot forgive, neither can you receive God’s forgiveness." In other words, we must forgive because we have been forgiven.
During the first Angelus address after his election in 2013, the Holy Father said: “Feeling mercy changes everything… . This is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.” “God doesn’t forgive with a decree but with a caress. He forgives by caressing the wounds caused by our sins, because he is involved in forgiveness, is involved in our salvation.”
“Mercy,” Pope Francis says, “is something which is difficult to understand: it doesn’t eliminate sin," for “it is God’s forgiveness that does this. Mercy is the manner in which God forgives."
Inevitably, as writer Helen Whitney reveals, the new role of forgiveness in the world raises serious and complex questions: what does that say about us and the times we live in; what are its power, its limitations and in some instances its dangers; has it been cheapened or deepened... or both?
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta once said: "If we really want to love we must learn how to forgive." For this reason and many more, we present to you Forgiveness: A Time to Love and a Time to Hate, to encourage contemplation, spark conversation, and change minds and hearts. Thank you for joining us on this provocative journey of forgiveness.
Watch clip here.
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