Mary: Bearer of Forgiveness
One day she got fed up with the parrot and as it was insulting her she picked it up, it continued with the insults..”you’re ugly! I can’t stand you!” and it pecked at her arm as she carried it. She opened the freezer door and threw him in and closed the door. From inside, the parrot was still going on for about 5 seconds and then it was suddenly quiet.
She thought, “Oh no, I killed it!” She open the door and the parrot just looked at her. She picked it up. Then the parrot said:
“I’m very sorry. I apologize for my bad behavior and promise you there will be no more of that. From now on, I will be a respectful, obedient parrot.”
“Well OK” she said. “apology accepted”. The parrot said “Thank you”. Then he said, “Can I ask you something?” She said, “Yes, What?”
And the parrot looked at the freezer and asked, “What did the Chicken do?”
My dear confreres, this February night, let me speak to you of, as to catch the Love Wave and Vocation Wave during February, that which is the most powerful fruit of Love: Forgiveness. Being 24th of the month let me speak of the Virgin Mary, the bearer of Forgiveness.
What is forgiveness? Psychology defines it as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe himself able to forgive.
It is a curious thing when children were asked why forgiveness is important:
One thing that I couldn’t forget in my stay in Lawaan was a talk given by Fr. Ronel Vilbar. In his input, he shared that we have one great need: it is not money, nor beauty, nor time, nor progress, nor technology. Our greatest need is forgiveness. We all need to be forgiven and that is how we have come to need a Savior. This Savior is born of Virgin and her name is Mary.
The Blessed Virgin has so many titles attached to her but I realized the title Bearer of Forgiveness was not on the list. I am quite sure because I googled it. She is not forgiveness herself, just as she is not the sun but the white dawn announcing the rising of the sun. She is the Bearer of Forgiveness because she bore Him who brought forgiveness of our sins.
Is she not the one disciple who would help a sinner to approach Christ? It is oftentimes through her intercession that graces from God have been obtained, starting from her intervention in Cana down to the miracles she had obtained for countless souls who have recourse to her, to the time of Don Bosco who attests to this fact (“Only in heaven shall we know how much the Virgin has done for us.”), until our present generation. Notice this too, that with her every appearance and manifestation, from Fatima to Lourdes, Guadalupe to Akita, she has always been offering counsel: God’s forgiveness and repentance of sins. As she carries the baby Jesus in her arms, she is offering the one Offering that could satisfy God’s Justice, the One Lamb for the Forgiveness of Sins.
“Every neighbour of ours has his own little place in the heart of our Savior. And who will have no heart to love and bear the imperfections of one who is in such a holy place?” St. Francis of Sales asks. We have all been called to be forgiving by Christ just as we have been forgiven in Him. Our Blessed Mother exemplified this when she did not hold a grudge against the world for crucifying her only Son. The Forgiveness that she once carried has become a part of her. Don Bosco once wrote, “The revenge of a true Catholic is pardon and prayer for the offender,” (BM IV, 312). Sons of Don Bosco and sons of Mary, we are called to become bearers of forgiveness to one another. It is in fraternal correction and charity that Don Bosco asks us, “Pardon means to forget for all time,” (BM VI, 363).
With every sin comes along a true fear of punishment and fear of exacting justice. Yet a sweet smile from a mother, whose face is filled with tenderness and reassurance, keeps us at peace and invites us to lay clean our own consciences, and we learn to trust that with her prayers and support we will never be sent away. God never sends away a repentant sinner, and a Mother who has always accepted with open arms the people who betrayed her Son will not keep to herself the baby in her arms. Mary will always assure us of God’s love.
What is Forgiveness, then, for us Salesians? Forgiveness is the Person who so loved us, he called us from obscure ordinary into our Society for us to be loved by Him and for us to love Him in return. Forgiveness is the One Teacher who gave little Johnny a teacher without whom Wisdom is lost. Forgiveness is that little baby cradled in Mary’s arms, the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
Forgiveness is no longer a “what” but a “who”. It is Christ, who once is presented to the world in the Virgin’s arms, who once became alive in the person of Don Bosco, and who now wants to be alive in us. The Virgin who showed the world True Forgiveness, now sends us, in the Congregation she herself put up, to show young people that there is forgiveness for the world after all. We are bearers of God’s love and forgiveness to the young. We no longer are motivated by fear when we seek for reconciliation with God like the parrot in my little story, because we have our Blessed Mother by our side, she who once comforted Peter, will comfort us also and show us Forgiveness, and in turn we become forgiveness to one another and to everyone, especially the young.
Mary Help of Christians, pray for us.
This sermonette was given on February 24, 2011 during the monthly commemoration of Mary Help of Christians, before the Post Novitiate Community.