Daily Reflections

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The Prison of Unforgiveness

November 13, 2017

First Reading:  Wisdom 1:1-7

Gospel:  Luke 17:1-6



Some years ago, I found myself consulted about a bitter family situation.  The presenting issue concerned the will of a family matriarch and who got what or who did’t get what they thought they deserved. Three adult children were involved, a son and two daughters.  The matriarch cut the son and his family out of the will; gave a small amount to one daughter and a substantial amount to the other daughter and her family.  The son somewhat reconciled himself but the one daughter accused her sister of manipulating their mother into leaving her and her family the bulk of her estate.  This daughter refused to accept the mother’s decision; stopped contact with her sister and did everything she could to malign her sister.  She locked herself in a self-made prison of unforgiveness.

A church-going Catholic, she came on retreat and shared her story with me.  I had just given a workshop on Forgiveness and she asked to see me. She was bitter and angry and told me that she could never/would never forgive her sister….ever! Her sister had tried to reach out to her over the years, but to no avail.  This woman was frozen in her unforgiveness.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus addresses the issue of forgiveness – once again.  In Jesus’ teaching, forgiveness is not an option, it is mandatory.  We must forgive not only for the sake of those who have hurt us but also for our own inner healing.  Forgiveness is the key that opens the gate of the prison of unforgiveness and makes us free men and women. It’s amazing how much energy unforgiveness consumes; it’s amazing how unforgivenss envelopes us in a dark cloud of negativity and colors our relationships with others.

There are ten things that we need to keep in mind when we start talking about forgiveness:

  1. Forgiveness is a journey that may require years of effort;
  2. We begin the journey by honestly acknowledging what has happened;
  3. We own the feelings that go along with our hurts;
  4. We make a choice not to strike back against the other in any way;
  5. In fact, we choose to do good for the other;
  6. We may seek justice but never revenge;
  7. We pray for the other and their healing;
  8. We pray for ourselves and our healing;
  9. We acknowledge that forgiveness is God’s work;
  10. We surrender the journey of forgiveness to God.


Brother Andre Mathieu, C.P.