Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, First, I wish a happy Mother’s Day to all mothers! May our good Lord bless all mothers throughout the world! Let us remember to turn to our Blessed Mother, the Virgin Mary, thanking her for her love for us and asking her to help us be grateful children of our Heavenly Father! As we continue to seek to live holy lives, close to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, it is very good to remember our hearts must be like the Heart of Jesus. Our Lord’s Heart is merciful and ready to forgive. Forgiveness can be very difficult. We can easily justify not forgiving others. Therefore, it is best that we pray for the grace to forgive like Jesus forgives. This week I share with you a meditation on learning to forgive. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “Learning to Forgive: People can change - avoid making definitive judgements on people based on their external actions. The first reading of the Holy Mass (Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter) tells us of an event that took place among St. Paul’s missionary companions. They had sailed from Paphos and arrived in Perga in Pamphylia; but there John left them and returned to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13) The others continued their apostolic journey and reached Antioch of Pisidia. John, also called Mark, was a cousin of Barnabas, Paul’s inseparable apostolic partner and one of the pillars of the work of spreading the Faith among the Gentiles. Since early youth St. Mark had known the fervent apostolate of the early Christians at Jerusalem gathered around Our Lady and the Apostles, whom he had known intimately. St. Mark’s mother had been among the first women to help Jesus and the Twelve. It seems natural that Barnabas should have thought specially of initiating his cousin John Mark as a partner in the task of spreading the Gospel under his joint authority with St. Paul. (cf. The Navarre Bible, Introduction to St. Mark’s Gospel) John lost heart and went home, leaving his partners. He felt unable to cope and turned back. This event must have weighed heavily on the others who went ahead. However, in preparing the second great apostolic journey to visit the brethren who had received the Faith, Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. But Paul thought it best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. (Acts 15:37-38) St. Paul was not of a mind to take someone with him who had already let him down once. Such a difference arose then between them that they parted from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. (Acts 15:39-40) The arguments and the differences of viewpoints must have been substantial to cause such a separation. St. Jerome says, Paul was the more strict and Barnabas the more lenient in maintaining their views. Nevertheless this argument showed up clearly human frailty. (St. Jerome, Dialogue against the Pelagians 11, 17) Despite everything, St. Paul being a man of immense heart, and a fervent apostle who sacrificed himself to the utmost for his brethren, did not make a definitive judgment on St. Mark. On the contrary, years later we find St. Mark described as one of the Apostle’s closest partners (Philem. 24) and a deep source of consolation for him. (cf. Col. 4:10ff) Aristarchus, my fellow prisoner, greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions – if he comes to you, receive him), and Jesus who is called Justus… they have been a comfort to me. (cf. Col. 4:10-11) Later on, St. Paul asks St. Timothy to go with Mark because he is very useful in serving me. (cf. 2 Tim. 4:11) Within a few years Mark was once more a friend and an effective partner of the Apostle in his hardship. Perhaps once Paul had thought Mark was of no use; now he wants him by his side. People can change, and when we have to judge them by their outward behavior - God alone can know their intentions - we should never make judgements that are fixed and unchangeable. Our Lord loves us as we are, with our defects too, when we struggle to overcome them, and He counts on time and grace to change us. Seeing the defects of those around us - sometimes very evident and undeniable ones - we should never lack the charity which enables us to understand and to help them. From now on, couldn’t we look at others in such a way as not to be disheartened by their defects? The time will come when the wounds are forgotten… Perhaps many things which have saddened us today or in recent times will be forgotten. We have defects, but we can love each other! This is because we are brethren and because Christ loves us truly… as we are. (A. G. Dorronsoro, God and People) The fundamental reason is that although Christ does not love our shortcomings, He loves us despite our many defects. Let defects not be a cause of distancing ourselves from those with whom we are living, with those around us at the office, in the university or in our place of work. Forgive and forget. Making up with our friends. St. Paul gives us an example of how to forget, of how to repair breakdowns in our relationships, of how to be a real friend. As regards St. Mark, he is a magnificent example to us of humility and hope. The event in which he was the subject of the argument dividing Barnabas and Paul must have deeply impressed and greatly hurt the Evangelist (St. Mark). He must have been deeply hurt at seeing himself rejected by Paul, who had a well-won reputation as a tireless evangelizer of great wisdom and holiness. He, in his turn, was able to forget, and was there where he was needed, comforting St. Paul and being extremely helpful in the ministry. St. Mark managed to forgive and forget because he had a great soul. That is why later on he was such a marvelous instrument of grace. Those who zealously keep a list of grudges show themselves to be very narrow-minded. Such poor wretches are impossible to live with. True charity neither keeps account of the necessary services it renders all the time, nor takes note of the effronteries it has to put up with. ‘Omnia suffert’ – it endures all things. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 738) If we lack humility we will tend to draw up our list of small grudges which, despite being small, take away our peace with God, waste a lot of energy and make us incapable of undertaking the great plans Our Lord has in mind each day for those close to Him. The heart of the humble person is set on God and is thus filled with joy, becoming, as it were, less vulnerable. It doesn’t matter to Him what people say or might have said. He forgets immediately, and doesn’t give too much consideration to the humiliations which every man or woman experiences in one way or another in the course of their daily life. Such simplicity and humility, not getting complicated when pride suggests our reputation is being maligned, leaving aside possible grudges, gives us the ability to begin again when we have been cowardly or have failed. We see St. Mark take up his work immediately again with Barnabas after the cowardice and fatigue of the first journey - ready this time to be unconditionally faithful. The humble person finds it easy to be fraternal with others and so looks for ways to relate to those around him. He restores friendship if it has been for any reason broken or has cooled off, and is always ready to lend a brotherly hand and be helped himself. The relationships necessary for social life are formed in this way. In closeness there is mutual support and on this charity is built… If I then fail in putting up with your character and you don’t want to bear with mine, how can charity grow between us since patience does not unite us in mutual love? As we have said, in a building each stone is both supportive and a support. (St. Gregory the Great, Homilies on Ezechiel) Despite our ups and downs and other short-comings, we can be good instruments of God if we are humble. Besides St. Mark’s apostolic work of expansion and consolidation among the new converts, he worked in very close cooperation with Peter, Paul and Barnabas. According to the most reliable tradition he was St. Peter’s interpreter in Rome, probably translating both the preaching and oral teachings of the Prince of the Apostles. Above all, he was a very docile instrument of the Holy Spirit in leaving us the priceless jewel of the second Gospel (according to Mark). It is a great source of consolation and hope to us when we look at the person of this Evangelist, from his very first steps up to his becoming an invaluable instrument for the early Church and for all time. Despite our shortcomings, the possible failures and hesitations of our past, like him we can be assured, with the help of grace, of being able to give a selfless and useful service to the Church. Despite everything, we too can become effective instruments. What help and care he must have given at Rome to the elderly St. Paul in prison. Both had made their own the words written by the Apostle of the Gentiles to the Christians at Corinth: Love is patient and kind. (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1) Love overcomes all. Charity can overcome all our defects, smooth out the differences between characters, and remove anything that might be an obstacle in relationships. Charity can overcome all resistance. How different everything would have been if St. Paul had given in to the prejudice that St. Mark couldn’t be relied on for anything, because he had once been cowardly or exhausted, or had allowed himself to become discouraged and gone back to Jerusalem! How different things would also have been if St. Mark had harbored a grudge because the Apostle (St. Paul) didn’t want to have him on his second journey! Let us today ask Mary our Mother that we may never hold anything against anybody, for it would do great damage to our heart, to our love for God and our neighbor. Let us learn from St. Mark how to begin again, a thousand times if necessary, if we for any reason have to go through a similar bad experience of failure or cowardice. (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the joyful Heart of Mary, the Mother of the Children of God, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God bless us and grant us the grace to forgive others! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel
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