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Jul 08, 2022 671 Sean Booth,
Engage

Be Free

It isn’t easy to say ‘I forgive’ and truly forgive until you do this…

“For freedom Christ has set us free.” (Galatians 5:1)

I’m sure the majority of people would be aware that forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian message, but many would be surprised to learn that not forgiving somebody can result in physical pain. I know this from personal experience. Several times, I have witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in healing this terrible, often paralysing, sickness.

Not a Cliché

The first words Jesus spoke, as He was dying on the Cross, were words of forgiveness (Luke 23:34). His loving sacrifice was the moment that mankind had awaited, – to set them free from sin and death. Forgiveness was again on His lips when He met His disciples after He rose from the dead, giving them the power to grant it on His behalf (John 20:19-23). When the Apostles asked Him how to pray, Jesus responded with a prayer allowing us to address God as ‘Our Father’, and asking Him to ‘forgive us our trespasses (sins) as we forgive those who trespass (sin) against us’ (Matthew 6:12). If we expect forgiveness ourselves, we must forgive others (Matthew 5:23-26; 6:14).

Unforgiveness can be likened to a clenched fist. A clenched fist is tense, and is often clenched in anger. It is really only fit for one thing; to hit somebody, or at least to be ready to. If that fist does hit somebody, then it is a fair assumption to expect one back, creating more animosity. If the fist is clenched, it is not open. An open hand is able to receive but if it is closed and clenched it is not possible to accept what may be offered. Alternatively, when we open our hands so we can receive, we are also able to give what we receive.

When He Sets Free

As I prayed about this at Mass, I had an image of a walking stick, and realized that when we do not forgive, it hinders our walk through life. After Mass, a man approached as we chatted outside, asking us to take a picture of him outside the church. When I noticed his walking stick, I had a sense that his sickness was caused by unforgiveness. As the conversation continued, he began to tell me about his past, concluding with a request to keep him in my prayers, since he was suffering with a bad back.

I invited him to pray with me immediately because Jesus wanted to heal him, but it would require something from him. Intrigued and open, he agreed, asking what would be required. I told him that he would need to forgive the people he had just mentioned and anybody else who had injured him. I could see him struggling internally, so I encouraged him with the assurance that he didn’t have to rely on his own strength to forgive. If he forgave in the name of Jesus, then Jesus would empower him, lead him and set him free. His eyes lit up as he whispered, “With my Lord’s strength, yes, I can forgive.”

I led him in a prayer, which ended by praying for the healing of his back by laying hands on the problem area (Mark 16:15-18). I told him to do what Jesus said and claim the healing by giving thanks to God in the belief that he had received it, (Mark 11:22-25). This was on Friday evening.

On Sunday, he sent me a text message, “Praise the Lord, Jesus has healed my back.” I praised the Lord indeed, thanking Him with all my heart. I was particularly struck by this detail. We had asked for the healing on the Friday by the power and merits of the Cross. The answer was received on the third day, Sunday, the day of Resurrection.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, “People think forgiveness is a lovely thing until they have something to forgive.” It is important to know that forgiveness is an act of the will; it is something we choose. That is not to say it is an easy choice, as often it can seem like the hardest, most painful decision in the world to make, but when we face everything in the Name of Jesus, ‘through Him, with Him, and in Him’, we learn that ‘with God nothing will be impossible’ (Luke 1:37). It is essential that we ask ourselves if there is anybody in our lives that we need to forgive. Jesus teaches us, “Whenever you stand up to pray, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in Heaven may forgive you your sins’ (Mark 11:25). Therefore, we must bring everything to Jesus and allow Him to set us free, because “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36).

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Sean Booth

Sean Booth is a member of the Lay Missionaries of Charity and ‘Men of St. Joseph’ from Manchester, England and is currently studying a Bachelor of Divinity Undergraduate Degree at Maryvale Institute in Birmingham, England.

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