and Reconciliation with One Another
by Carlos Mantica
The following essay is adapted
from the book, From Birdhood to Egghead:
Hatch or Rot as a Christian, by Carlos
Mantica. In the forward to the book Fr.
Victoriano Arizti, from Victoria, Spain
writes: "You are going to experience, dear
reader, how these talks and teachings, which
...are Nicaraguan experiences,
conceptualized by Chale Mantica in light of
God's Word Ė do
give a concrete response to the issues and
questions that often come up in your
communities or in the apostolic field the
Lord has called you to. These talks now come
to your hands, with the same love and the
same apostolic enthusiasm with which their
author developed them, and I hope they will
be helpful for your own enrichment and to
give practical orientation to those who
share with you the yearning for a more
genuine Christianity, one that will be an
effective answer to the problems confronted
by today's society."
I met my Lord at the precise moment when many
things in my life were beginning to crumble
down, including my family. I now have a family
that is very much united and very happy, as a
fruit of reconciliation and of the Lordís mercy.
That is why, on addressing the topic of family
as the target and instrument of reconciliation,
I can do it with praise and thanksgiving to the
Lord of all tenderness.
family is deeply divided at all levels
I was born in Nicaragua, that trouble-ridden
country where the human family is nowadays
deeply divided at all levels Ė children against
parents, wives against husbands, brother against
brother. This division is today our greatest
sorrow, and the task of reconciliation is the
most difficult challenge that the Lord poses to
I visit the U.S. with some frequency, and I am
sad to discover that, even though in a different
way, American families are divided too, and
their division is very deep.
Since statistics are very helpful to make our
talks more impressive, I decided to gather
information about the situation of Catholic
families in the United States, and I found some
data that are frankly quite interesting.
From 1973 to 1983, the rate of divorced
Catholics increased from one in every seven to
one in every four marriages. While the divorce
rate in the general population of the U.S.
increased by 50 percent, during the same period
the divorce rate among Catholics increased by 90
These numbers speak to us about a divided
family, about a division that alienates and
separates spouses. But the picture is only
complete when we look into the situation of
From 1957 to 1979 the incidence of suicide among
the youth increased by 230 percent. The figure
alone says nothing, until we realize that this
increase is ten times higher than the increase
in suicide among the adult population. The
arrests of white young people under 18 increased
by 2730 percent, and the number of murders
committed by white youngsters in 310 percent. In
the U.S., 40 percent of the murders nowadays are
committed by young people between 16 and 24
The number of illegitimate births rose 800
percent among girls between 15 and 19 years old,
despite the generalized use of contraceptives.
In 1982, 33 percent of people above 12 years of
age used some drug in a more or less customary
way, but the percentage went up to 64 percent
among high school seniors. More than one third
of them had experimented other illegal drugs in
addition to marijuana. (Pastoral Renewal, Nov.
1983, p. 40).
inner root of the problem is sin within us
Statistics are just too cold and too impersonal.
We run the risk of seeing only figures where
there are real people involved. Each of these
young people has a name and a family which could
be ours. Behind every integer lies a
disintegrated personality. Thereís something
that is not working the way God intended it to.
Thereís someone who is shattered inside.
In the face of this kind of situations, man
wonders what is going wrong, where his failure
is. We Christians know the answer: no matter how
different the road one might have followed, the
point of departure is always the same. All of
our failures, both personal and social, have
their root in the inner breakdown of man through
sin, and in his separation from God.
This is what our bishops reminded us of in the
Synod of 1983: ďThe divisions that disturb our
world are at once a terrible and revealing sign,
and a bitter fruit of that intimate division
produced by man through sin, that alienates him
from God, from himself and from others.Ē
We need to listen to the voice of the church
that is continuously reminding us that the root
of our troubles is inside our own hearts. Modern
man insists on looking for the cause and the
solution to his problems outside of his own
heart. This can be seen both in the case of the
divorced woman who asserts that everything will
be different with this new husband, and in the
young revolutionary who asserts that the new
change will finally bring peace.
Unfortunately, divorces and revolutions come one
after the other without yielding the expected
results. As the root is the same, the fruits are
We do not need an elaborate theology to know
that this is true. Even the most complex
theology becomes plain and obvious when our own
existence teaches us the truth. Family is
perhaps the context where we can most clearly
verify the existence of that destructive force
we carry within us, and which we call sin.
One day we choose a girl, the woman of our
dreams, whom we love deeply, for whom we would
be willing to do anything, and to whom we want
to devote our whole life in order to build a
home with her that will be a true paradise. We
lack nothing, we have everything it takesóa
sincere desire, a firm decision, the necessary
love and the person we ourselves chose to make
all of this a reality.
within the heart sows division and
And yet even that dream collapses. The reason is
that we carry inside ourselves something that
will soon begin to surface Ė jealousy, grudge,
resentment. And happiness is blurred today by
anger, and tomorrow by incomprehension, and the
next day by mockery and sarcasm, by alienation,
by the distance and silence of two people who
are drifting away towards lack of love. The sin
within us has begun its process of division and
When this happens, we wonder what has taken
place. And, like St. Paul, we answer that ďI do
not understand my own actions. For I do not do
what I want, but I do the very thing I hate...
So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin
which dwells within meĒ (Romans 7:15, 17).
I know that among you there are people who are
suffering. There are people with deep wounds in
their souls, caused by the sins of others. And
there are people who have done a lot of harm
through their actions or omissions, possibly
without intending to, possibly against the
people they loved most. It would be better if
that had not happened; they would like to start
all over again; but they think this is
impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.
offers restoration through repentance and
Iím on my return trip from the
impossible. I know the way back. The way God
offers us to come back from the impossible is
the same he offers to come back from sin to his
friendship Ė the way of reconciliation through
repentance and forgiveness.
Man today is shattered inside. Psychiatrists
tell us that this inner breakdown, in a very
high percentage, is caused by two big factors:
guilt, and resentment or grudge.
and forgiveness are the only cure and
This is something God knows quite well, because
heís the one who fashioned us and knows better
than anybody else how it is that we work.
Everybody knows that a diesel car cannot operate
on gasoline. Itís not just that it wonít run,
but that if we try it, we ruin the car. It will
be broken inside. God knows that a family cannot
work with grudge, because it was made to work
with love. And because God knows this, and in
addition to that he wants our good and loves us,
he then does something we donít always
understand Ė he calls us to repentance, and he
commands us to forgive. And he does so because
repentance and forgiveness are the only cure and
solution for guilt and grudge that are
Young people, too, were made to operate on love.
So when they donít find it, they look for a
replacement, or simply refuse to function.
Sometimes they will only experience a tremendous
vacuum inside, and they try to fill it up with
strong experiences. In other cases, they are
filled with hatred or grudge that impels them to
Behind their rebelliousness and their drugs,
behind their escapism, behind their violence, we
must diagnose a failure in their inner engine.
Something is lacking. Something is broken. No
matter what fuel he or she is using, it has to
be changed. That is, he or she needs to repent
and go back to the fuel he was designed for.
from God we cannot save ourselves
And, brothers and sisters, we were ultimately
designed to operate on God. We cannot run
without him. Man was made to run with Godís
life, with the Spirit of God. This is what
Genesis tells us, that God blew his own Spirit
into dust in order to give us life. When man,
through sin, loses the Spirit of God, he becomes
mere dust once again. That is, heís now mere
flesh and is subject to the laws of the flesh.
This is what our faith teaches us: that man,
apart from God and without the help of the Holy
Spirit, carries within himself a destroying
force that we call sin. Unless we draw near and
unite ourselves to God once again through
reconciliation, unless the Lord gives us a new
heart, unless we are born again from on high,
unless the Spirit of God shapes us in the image
of Christ, unless Godís power acts in our
lives... in sum, brothers and sisters, unless we
are saved by Jesus Christ, we will continue to
fail, despite our best intentions and our
greatest efforts, and a destroyed family is the
clearest proof to this great truth.
Even though the topic of my talk is not
reconciliation to God, all that I will say from
now on presupposes this reconciliation and vital
union to him. It is through him, with him and in
him that everything else is possible.
It is good to know what the Lord commands us to
do, but it is also necessary to understand why
he commands what he commands. Everything is
easier and clearer when we understand the Lordís
kingdom of God is peace, joy, and
There is a parable that can be very
useful for us to have a better understanding of
the Lordís purposes and ways. It is found in
Matthew 18:23-35, and in it the Lord explains to
us to some extent what the Kingdom of God is
like. We will find a deeper meaning in it if we
remember that in Romans 14:17 we are told that
the Kingdom of God is living in righteousness,
peace and joy. And thatís what the Lord wants
for us: a life in righteousness, full of his joy
and peace. This is the parable:
Therefore the kingdom of heaven may
be compared to a king who wished to settle
accounts with his servants. When he began the
reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him
ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay,
his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife
and children and all that he had, and payment to
be made. So the servant fell on his knees,
imploring him, ĎLord, have patience with me, and
I will pay you everything.í And out of pity for
him the lord of that servant released him and
forgave him the debt. But that same servant, as
he went out, came upon one of his fellow
servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and
seizing him by the throat he said, ĎPay what you
owe.í So his fellow servant fell down and
besought him, ĎHave patience with me, and I will
pay you.í He refused and went and put him in
prison till he should pay the debt. When his
fellow servants saw what had taken place, they
were greatly distressed, and they went and
reported to their lord all that had taken place.
Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ĎYou
wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt
because you besought me; and should not you have
had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy
on you?í And in anger his lord delivered him to
the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So
also my heavenly Father will do to every one of
you, if you do not forgive your brother from
word of God to challenge you
Brothers and sisters, we Christians need to allow
the Word of God to challenge us. The Lord
repeatedly says in Scripture that he will only
forgive our trespasses if we ourselves forgive
those who offend us. That is something very
serious, something we need to get clear on:
forgiving is not something optional that we can do
or left undone, but is a command.
However, I think it is important for you to
understand why it is that the Lord commands us to
forgive. It is worth discovering at all times,
behind every command of God, the love and the
tenderness of a Father who loves us.
The Lord often uses his parables to explain to us
what God is like. In this parable, the first thing
we find, as we look at the amount of this manís
debt, is a God who loves us so much that he allows
us to accumulate incredible debts. One could say
that he doesnít even keep a record of the things
he gives us or of the debts accrued.
It is obvious that the intention of the parable is
to show us that what we owe God is something we
would never be able to pay. But thatís what God is
like, and he allows for these things because he is
But the thing doesnít stop there. The Lord teaches
us something even greater and more beautiful: the
only thing this man in the parable dares to do is
ask for patience so he can pay. He doesnít even
think about asking for more. However, this man on
his knees leads God to compassion, and God goes
far beyond the manís request. Of his own will, he
grants the total cancellation of all his debts.
What this parable teaches us is that Godís
kindness is much larger than anything we could
imagine or anything we dare expecting from him.
St. Paul says that what eye has not seen, or ear
heard, nor have we even been able to imagine, is
what God has reserved for those who love him. We
who are the Lordís friends know that very well.
Thatís what heís like.
forgives he cancels the debt totally
The parable also teaches us that God does not
forgive in a limited way. He does not keep, as we
do, even a little IOU that can become a tool for
pressing on the debtors. Iím talking about that
IOU of the old unpaid debt, to be charged to that
person who still owes it to us, and which we
produce every once in a while to rub on his or her
face. This can be our wife or our husband. This
can be anyone who has been unlucky enough to
become indebted to us.
Godís cancellation is total. What the parable
teaches is that when God forgives, itís a whole
new start. When he cancels a debt, the IOUís are
destroyed. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes
away the sin of the world. And when something is
taken away, it is no longer there.
The meaning of forgiveness in the Bible is very
different from what we mean by that. In the world,
if you forgive me, then you are the good guy who
in your immense generosity has deigned forgiving
me; I continue to be the bad guy who wronged you.
I am merely a pardoned or paroled criminal who is
allowed to walk freely on the streets, but who
continues to be a criminal whose record is being
But with God, things are different. When God blots
our sins, no trace is left of them. They have
never existed. Not even St. Peter will be able to
find them in his heavenly accounting books when he
looks you up. So I can come to you and before God
clean and unblemished. Not because someone stole
my record at the police headquarters. Some say
that what happened is that someone spilled it with
his own blood and made it illegible. But in fact,
something greater than that has happened: when God
forgives us, he also justifies us. That is, he
makes us just.
It is not just the record that has disappeared.
The convict has disappeared too. The convict
exists no more, and the reason he exists no more
is that he is dead. It is said that he was
crucified together with his attorney. So Iím now a
new creation. Iím a different person, I have been
born again from on high, I have no sin and no
not accuse, humiliate, or compare others
My brothers and sisters, it is not possible to
keep a healthy, loving relationship with somebody
else if this person makes us feel constantly
accused. Or if we, despite his forgiveness, always
feel tormented by our past failures. The Lord
knows this, and that is why he wants and expects
that, once your faults have been deleted, you will
forget them forever too.
And you, sister, please do not wield your virtues
like a big stick to beat your husband or to make
other peopleís faults more obvious. The Lord is
even greater and more virtuous, but he does not
humiliate us with his holiness. He encourages us
and extends his hand to us so we can come closer
to him and be lifted up towards him.
A few years ago a lady came to me asking to be
prayed for. In her view she was a martyr of her
husband, and no one had ever seen so many virtues
bound together in one single volume of devotion
and holiness. However, as I prayed I began to feel
inside myself an unexplainable rage. It was the
Lordís wrath. Then I suddenly opened the Bible in
front of me, and without looking for a particular
passage, I read aloud. The text was Micah 7:4-6,
The best of them is like a brier, the
most upright of them a thorn hedge... Guard the
doors of your mouth... for... the daughter rises
up against her mother, the daughter-in-law
against her mother-in-law; a manís enemies are
the men of his own house.
The lady turned pale. Her home was a hell. Her
husband had become an alcoholic. Our false martyr
had all the virtues, except the ones she needed
the most Ė more comprehension, more humility, more
love. She was into the bad habit of torturing
people with her virtues. Each of her merits was an
invoice somebody had to pay.
Brothers and sisters, if the Lord has already paid
all of our debts with his blood, why do we insist
on bleeding others out to pay for theirs?
In contrast with Godís mercy, the parable shows us
the pettiness of manís heart, which keeps a record
even of the smallest debts.
There are many ways to seize someone by the throat
as the man in the parable. One of them is
precisely through continuous reproach, through
accusation, through this perpetual inventory of
each and every one of the faults committed since
the wedding night, through mistrust, through
jealousy. Itís like spending your life murdering
someone with a small shaving blade. It doesnít
kill immediately, but it bleeds the other person
out until the relationship and the love finally
wither and die.
I think we all can imagine what a marriage would
be like if the spouses knew how to forgive each
other the way God forgives. It involves coming
before each other totally justified, a new
creation, in order to start a completely new life
all over again. And this is possible if you want.
forgiving others has serious consequences
Finally, Christ tells us that not forgiving has
its consequences, and will not be left unpunished.
He says that, if we are not reconciled to him Ė
because we insist on not forgiving those who
trespass against us Ė we remain enslaved to the
devil and the flesh, which then do with us
whatever they want and lead us from death to death
and from destruction to destruction.
All of us are, to some extent, actors in this
parable. If forgiving is an obligation, itís
better for us to feel in the obligation to
forgive, even if it is only in order to attain
forgiveness from our God. But it is even better
for all of us to understand what Godís intent is
when he commands us to forgive, so that we are
able to discover his love even behind his
I have a friend who is very dear to me. Some time
ago he wrote something very intimate and personal,
which in a certain way gave a new perspective to
my life and to the lives of many other persons.
Itís a piece of his own life, and I would like to
share it with you. It is written like a tale, but
I know itís more than just a tale. He called it
The Collector of Wounds, and it goes like this:
In this world there are collectors of
the strangest vanities, of things
tangible and intangible.
I met a man who collected wounds. He
had a huge album of all the wounds
people had inflicted on him. There was
a whole variety. Enormous, open and
bleeding wounds of atrocious
disappointments, of tremendous
ingratitude; irregular wounds from
bites of hatred, of slander and of
that kind of truths that everyone
wants to keep hidden and somebody
decides to uncover with a rash
gesture, as when the sheet is removed
from a corpse at the morgue. He even
had an album of tiny wounds, hardly
visible, but in which the poison of
envy was still shining.
He was fond of opening his album of
wounds and spending long hours
savoring the salty flavor of the blood
that dripped from each page, and which
was his own blood. There are many
collectors of wounds like this man,
and their lives are bitter.
Then I met another man, who collected
expressions of kindness. He had an
album too, which he thought was
necessary when he started his
collection, but he was only able to
paste on it a few of these expressions
of kindness, because afterwards he had
no time. The expressions of kindness
that he gathered were living and
flying in his room, filling it with a
light like the light of the rainbow.
He could not leaf through his album,
because expressions of kindness came
by themselves to his hands in endless
flocks and swarmed in his room.
There were great expressions of
kindness from an open heart, from
long, endeared friendships, from
beings who knew how to pour love out
There were rare expressions of
kindness, from hard men, surprised in
an unexplainable instant of softening
of their hearts, and there were even
tiny expressions of kindness, hardly
visible, sprinkled with milk like an
There are many collectors of kindness
like this other man, and their lives
Something funny happens when you are
old. You remember yourself at
different times, and it looks as if
you were watching other menís lives.
These are the first signs of dotage,
the dawn of old age. But itís also a
time when some things become quite
Between the collector of wounds and
the collector of kindness, you are the
only difference, my Lord!
collector of kindness
Something funny happens when you are old. You
remember yourself at different times, and it looks
as if you were watching other menís lives. These
are the first signs of dotage, the dawn of old
age. But itís also a time when some things become
Between the collector of wounds and the collector
of kindness, you are the only difference, my Lord!
I met both of those two men. And I say ďtwoĒ
because, even though they are one person, they are
totally different. The new man whom my Lord
transformed, I love dearly. We were fortunate to
travel together in the new life that began when
Jesus came to us. When you walk with collectors of
kindness, such as he, you get to see many things
I have also known many collectors of wounds. Their
pain is all the more painful to me because it is a
deliberate, stubborn, proud pain. Collectors of
wounds are usually tied up by a fine string of
pride that hinders them from taking that simple
leap of forgiveness towards peace and joy. They
will not necessarily be punished by God, because
in their resentment and rancor they are already
bearing their own punishment.
Perhaps you are now beginning to discover the
infinite love of God that lies behind each of his
commandments. I would now like to share with you
something I wrote a long time ago, and which I
think can help you gain a little deeper insight
into Godís intent.
This is an imaginary dialogue between a woman and
the Lord, but I think this is valid for all of us.
Some of you may find it similar to your own
prayers. I would ask that for a moment we place
ourselves in the Lordís presence and try to
complete this dialogue, making it into an actual
conversation between Jesus and each one of us.
What I visualize is a lady talking with Jesus, and
the conversation goes more or less like this:
Between a Lady and the Lord
She: Lord, forgive me! Iím really
sorry for having grieved you. My debt
is so big!
He: I see your heart and I know you
are sincere. Of course I forgive you.
I told Peter we needed to forgive, not
seven times, but seventy times seven,
and that at the end of just one day.
How would I not do the same Iím asking
you to do? How would I proclaim one
thing and then act differently?
Now thereís something I want to ask of
you: I want you to forgive that
offense that So-and-so caused you
(your husband, your wife, your son,
etc.). Do you remember?
She: How wouldnít I remember! I canít
almost think of anything else!
He: I want you to forgive him.
She: But I canít forgive him after
what he did to me.
He: Why do you see the speck that is
in your brotherís eye, but do not
notice the log that is in your own
eye? First take the log out of your
own eye, and then you will see things
differently. Let him who is without
sin be the first to throw a stone.
She: But you know all the harm he
caused to me, and how I have suffered!
He: But of course I know! If he had
not harmed you, you wouldnít need to
forgive him. It is precisely because
he has made you suffer that you need
to forgive him.
She: But itís all the same for him
whether I forgive him or hate him!
None of my things concerns him at all,
and maybe he doesnít even remember the
past. I think heís not even interested
in your forgiveness, much less in
He: Iím aware of that. I havenít said
he needs you to forgive him. He has
already forgotten the whole thing,
even though you continue to remind him
as often as you can. What I said is
that you need to forgive him.
He: Well, because youíre the one whoís
suffering. Look at your own face. See
how you change and how you destroy
yourself inside at the sole idea of
having to forgive him. Many of your
ailments come from these rancors and
grudges you have held in your heart.
She: In other words, youíre now going
to come up with the story of turning
the other cheek....
He: Was it any use to you to strike
back as you did? It is because of not
turning the other cheek that both of
you have ended up injured, and I donít
mean just once. A time came when
neither of you did what you really
wanted. You only reacted to each
otherís actions, and stopped being
free. Thatís why you both were dragged
into this state of affairs. Turning
the other cheek means that our actions
must not be determined by the actions
of others, but by our own will, by
what we would really like to do. I
know what you really wanted at that
time and what you continue to want
even now. And thatís not what you now
She: Lord, one canít win the day with
But one can enjoy. And joy is gain.
She: Well, then, Iím going to forgive
him, but just because youíre asking me
He: Thatís a good start. You have to
forgive, not because you feel like
forgiving him, but because I command
you to. I have already said that quite
clearly: ďI you do not forgive men
their trespasses, neither will your
Father forgive your trespassesĒ (Mt.
6:15). But thereís one thing I want
you to be clear about Ė you are not
doing me any favor. I do you the favor
of commanding you to forgive, because
this is for your good, like the rest
of my law. Neither do I command this
so that you will feel more virtuous Ė
I command it so that you will be
She: As far as Iím concerned I
wouldnít forgive him, but Iím going to
for his sake.
He: Thatís not true. You just said he
doesnít care whether you forgive him
She: Oh, well, then, if he doesnít
care, I wonít forgive him!
He: Just a little while ago you were
asking me to forgive all your
trespasses. And you know thereís been
a great many of them. You even felt
entitled to claim my forgiveness. Now
I, who am your Lord and your master,
ask you to forgive one single thing Ė
the thing that hurts you the most, and
youíre saying no! Donít you think
youíre putting things upside down?
Now gird your loins and listen: Where
were you when I built the vault of
heaven, when I set a limit to the
ocean, when I shaped the mountains,
when I played with galaxies between my
fingers? O little worm of mine, my
beloved! Donít you think that hatred,
rancor or vengeance are a much more
serious fault than the thing youíre
refusing to forgive? Isnít this a sin
of pride and arrogance, the very sin
that caused the fall of Lucifer? You
yourself are also sinking in a hell
built by your rancor. The Christianís
only revenge is forgiveness. And your
revenge is going to be a big one,
because I donít just want you to
forgive him but to love him as I love
Do you know why I wonít forgive you
unless you forgive? Simply because my
forgiveness would be of no use to you.
I love you all the same. I love you
always, even at this time of rebellion
on your part. But, you see, even with
my forgiveness you would continue to
Iím even willing to let you enter
heaven even if you donít forgive. But
I ask and clarify: Do you think heaven
can really be heaven for somebody who
does not forgive? Can it be heaven if
you live together with him in eternal
rancor? If there can be no heaven
without love, how can there be love or
heaven without forgiveness?
She: But, Lord, what face can I put on
to tell him I forgive him...?
He: Now that you mention your face Ė
you no longer have the face I gave you
when you began to love him. At your
age, everyone is responsible for the
face he or she has. Your face has
become hard. Your eyes have ceased
shining. Thatís a pity. One cannot
have light in the eyes and shadows in
the soul, because the eyes are the
mirror of the soul.
She: Okay, Lord, I forgive him.... but
donít ask me to forget it.
He: You have understood nothing at
all. It is remembrance that torments
you. If I gave you amnesia, you would
not suffer any longer, but neither
would you enjoy as I want you to
She: Youíre right, Lord. But I canít
guarantee that I will never remember
it. I often remember unwillingly. But
I promise I will not lick my wounds, I
will not sit down to remember the
past, or blame him anymore.
He: Thatís all Iím expecting of you.
Leave the rest to me. Allow me to heal
those memories and the wound this left
in your heart. Do you understand now?
I didnít just want to forgive your
sins; I also wanted and want to heal
you of the harm that the sins of
others have left in your heart.
Thatís the end of the dialogue. Brothers and
sisters, the salvation Christ offers to us is not
just in heaven, nor does it consist only in
forgiving your sins. The Lord wants to save your
marriage, your relationship to your children; he
wants to save your health and your joy. He wants
to save you as a whole. One of the things the Lord
wants to save you from is the harm that the sins
of others have caused in your heart. Your
contribution is forgiveness. The Lord will take
care of the rest.
between reconciliation and feelings of
Now I would like to
talk about repentance and reconciliation.
Perhaps, as you understand the immensity of Godís
mercy and love, or as you understand the magnitude
of the harm you have caused to others, you now
feel tormented by feelings of guilt. You may even
have thought sometimes, or someone might have
taught you, that God enjoys having you feel
guilty, or that we all expect that the least you
can do is feel guilty for all you have done.
But thatís a big lie. God does not want to harm
you, and feelings of guilt are harmful. But, in
addition, they do not lead to reconciliation. They
drove Judas to despair, but not to repentance.
Feelings of guilt never come from God. They come
from the accuser, from him who was a murderer from
Let me explain myself. A friend of mine says that
guilt is saying, ďHow evil I am!Ē, whereas
repentance is saying, ďWhat a fool Iíve been! How
different all things would have been if only I had
acted differently!Ē Repenting means changing your
attitude and starting to act in a different way.
Thatís what God expects of you Ė that from now on
you will act that other way that would have made
you happy, or that would have saved you a lot of
embraces repentance and forgiveness
Reconciliation is simply the embrace between
repentance and forgiveness. It is the encounter
between one who says, ďIíve been foolish, I did
wrong. Please forgive me. This will not happen
again,Ē and the one who says, ďI have been foolish
too in not forgiving you, and have unnecessarily
borne the bitterness of rancor. Of course I
of the spouses
You will say this seems all too easy. I will say
it is, when both parties rely on the love and
faithfulness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many times,
in these years of serving the Lord, I have seen
how a single minute was enough for two spouses who
were estranged and mutually tormented by their
lack of love, by their silence or by deep wounds,
to find again the way to happiness through
reconciliation. I invite you to try the same
You will say you have already tried it. But this
time it can be different. The difference may lie
in the possibility that, having reconciled
yourselves to God first, you both hand over your
marriage and your family to the Lord; that you
show him, as a pleasant offering in his eyes, your
mutual repentance and forgiveness, and ask him to
give you a new heart so you can love each other
the way he commands you to. But this time you will
not just rely on your own strength, because thatís
the strength of the flesh, but rather on the
faithfulness of the living God who established a
sacramental covenant with you they day of your
wedding, and on the power of the Holy Spirit who
will now inhabit your hearts through grace.
of the family
The reconciled couple
can then, and only then, become an instrument of
reconciliation for the whole family, and an
instrument for many other things. First of all, as
a witness to unity. Our children reject marriage
and dispense with it to live together in
concubinage, because they have ceased to believe
not just in the sanctity of marriage but in the
need or the possibility to marry just one person
forever. Statistics prove them right. Through our
reconciliation and harmony, we need to demonstrate
to them that marriage is possible and worthwhile.
We also need reconciliation in order to form our
children on the basis of a single mind, the mind
of the husband and the wife who, having agreed
together as a result of ongoing dialogue, work as
a team for the sake of their children, instead of
acting as two rivals who contend for their love or
their acceptance by competing with each other in a
race to see which of the two grants them maximum
freedom or maximum luxury and gifts. If they do
the latter, they will destroy their children, who
will in the end manipulate their differences in
order to make the most of them. These will be
spoiled children, corrupted by their own parents,
because they lacked the necessary unity to form
them in discipline and obedience.
family as an instrument of reconciliation
Finally, the family is an instrument of
reconciliation just as it has been so often and in
so many places an instrument of division, of
hatred, of resentment, of discrimination, of
manipulation, of oppression, of rivalry, of
cruelty, of lack of love, of promiscuity, of vice.
A family will shape others according to its own
Whether we like it or not, our countries will
never be more than their families are. It is by
itself symptomatic that modern revolutions and all
the manifestations of non-conformity are led by
youngsters who have just left adolescence and are
dominated by a spirit of rebelliousness and
licentiousness. I know many of them, and a very
high percentage come from destroyed homes.
sins can destroy marriages too
Just one final recommendation: When you reconciled
yourself to God, it is most likely that you only
confessed your serious sins, your mortal sins. I
have sometimes found marriages that were destroyed
by that kind of sin: adultery, physical abuse,
manifest cruelty. Or by big sins that others
committed against them Ė slander, envy, etc. But
for each one of these, there are 99 marriages that
never knew what it was that tore them apart.
Thatís what we call ďtermite sins,Ē which, just as
the termites that destroy lots of American houses,
cannot be seen, cannot be detected, cannot be
accused, we donít repent of them, and they are not
done away with until the damage is done. These are
your greatest enemy.
Termite sins are lack of dialogue, mockery,
sarcasm, rudeness, yelling, vulgarity, accusation,
mistrust, jealousy, rejecting your spouse
sexually, squandering, lack of love,
unconsciousness. It is these small things, and
others like them, that can undermine and corrode
your house without your noticing it. They begin by
alienating and separating the spouses, but if they
are not detected and corrected on time they can
end up by destroying your home.
for us is a new life of unity together
All of you are very holy, and perhaps
you donít think your marriage is threatened by
big, conspicuous sins. But the Lord invites us to
be perfect, as the Father in heaven is perfect.
Let us now draw closer to him, who is now become
an offering on the altar, and once reconciled to
our brothers, to our spouses and our children, let
us also hand to him our termite sins, so we can
begin a new life of unity together in our family.
Our family, having received the benefit of
reconciliation, can now be also an instrument for
reconciliation to our children and to all men and
women. Glory to the Lord!
article is excerpted from the book, From Birdhood to Egghead: Hatch
or Rot as a Christian, © 2001 Carlos
Mantica Abaunza. Used with