“Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” – Eph. 4:26.
Each of us should be aware of his own sins and defects, inwardly acknowledging his dependence on God. This awareness should be manifest in our dealings and relationships with others. We should admit our shortcomings and mistakes, asks pardon of our brothers and perform acts of kindness for them, so that each of us may in their midst as one who serves – CC 41.
The joy of living in community and engaging in its mission is often eroded by hurt feelings, offensive conversations, tale bearing and withdrawal. Hurt persons tend to hurt others. Personal differences can gradually develop into a “cold war” or open conflict, unless the wounds are treated with the balm of forgiveness and healed with the practice of reconciliation.
Take a moment to recall an experience of being hurt by someone. Think of a two or more people you have difficulty in freely relating with and have memories of being hurt. Could you forgive and forget those hurts? Probably not. What do you do with your hurts as a missionary disciple of the Lord? How do you deal with a confrere who harbours hurt feelings toward you? Strained relationships indeed drain the life of the community. Let us turn to the word of God to learn the art of mending relationships through forgiveness and reconciliation.
Forgiveness does not cancel an event or its impact on us completely as if nothing had happened. Love removes the thorn of offence which generates vengeance and retaliation. Even after reconciliation, one may have trouble trusting the other again. There is the possibility of the other hurting me again, and me hurting the other too as we move ahead. However, forgiveness leads us to live our deepest identity as the children of God. We grow closer to the mind of Christ who dared to love to the very end taking the risk of being betrayed by a trusted disciple, abandoned by his friends, mocked by those whom he served, and crucified with two known criminals. From the depth of his suffering, he prayed what he taught, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”.
We reflect on the theme of forgiveness from the Jewish, Christian and our own specific Claretian perspectives and draw some lessons for us.
1. The Jewish Perspective
Wherever there are human beings, we cannot avoid some minimum misunderstandings and troubles. But we also have the grace to overcome these misunderstandings when they arise. No wonder Peter approached the Lord to find out how many times he had to forgive his “brother”. The Jews knew that it was difficult to forgive or even seek reconciliation. However, it is a necessity to forgive and reconcile for a peaceful and fraternal community living. The following is a reflection by Rabbi Angela Buchdal.
On his deathbed, a Nazi soldier begged for forgiveness from a Jew. But the Jew walked away from the soldier who died the next day without receiving forgiveness. Why? Rabbi Angela Buchdahl answers, that forgiveness is not automatic. One must ask for forgiveness from the person directly wronged. Making peace in one’s heart or with God is not just enough. For sins between a person and God, Yôm kippūr attornment is enough, but not between person to another person, one has to appease the other, for effective forgiveness. The good news is that God is forgiving, yet the bad news is that most of our sins are not directed to God. The Jewish teaching is that, it is only with a personal encounter with the offended can we truly repent and received pardon.
From the Jewish perspective, no one has authority to forgive sins committed against other people, even God doesn’t claim that authority. This underlines the duty we have to seek reconciliation personally for the even slightest injuries we do to each other daily. Asking for pardon and reconciliation entails as well, a resolution not to (at least within one’s limits) repeat such actions (mistakes). Complete forgiveness can take months or even years to be realized. The Jewish standard for forgiveness therefore demands that we apologize personally, commit ourselves not to repeat the mistake and we must undergo a change
of attitude. What if we are not forgiven? We must go and seek forgiveness more and more, three times. Three times indicates how difficult it is for genuine forgiveness to be realized. And, if the person offended refuses to forgive a genuine act of reconciliation from the offender, then the brunt of the sin committed shifts from the offender to the offended, the offended becomes a sinner. Forgiveness is not primarily what you are giving someone else, but it is about what you give yourself. It is a decision of how you want to live, it is taking control of how much power you allow someone else’ sin to have over you. In brief, Rabbi Angela colourfully says; “holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other to die.”
Forgiveness doesn’t come in an instant, it is a process. In this process, we are hit with new genuine questions regarding the remorsefulness of the offender, reliving the pain of being offended each time we see the offender, etc. The last questions could be, “Why am I holding on to this anger?” “What burden will I have to bear if I don’t forgive?” “Can forgiveness be a gateway to greater peace?”
It is said among Jews, that while God ascends to the throne of judgment, he prays. What is it that God prays for? He prays for compassion and for the ability to let go off anger, so that He can be more forgiving. Forgiveness is an intention and hope; forgiveness is a prayer.
2. The Christian and Claretian Perspectives
Since we have roots in Judaism, it is worth considering the Jewish perspective now from our Christian and Claretian spirituality. When we offend another, we also offend God,  yet for us to achieve divine forgiveness, we must be forgiven by our brothers and sisters whom we offend,  if they forgive us, so is it in heaven. There is this insistence on a dialogue, a face-to-face dialogue or fraternal confrontation. And for a Claretian, whom the Constitutions encourages to offer the Sacrifice of the Eucharist daily, should also be familiar with the gospel teaching that, before we offer the sacrifice on the altar, we should reconcile with our brothers. 
Forgiveness is a process indeed as seen in the Jewish perspective, and often we have reduced this passage to the sacrament of reconciliation. In Mt 18, though Jesus was speaking to his disciples, it is clear that there were some people too among his listeners, for he had called in a child, to slowly develop the teaching on forgiveness with sin as the background. Indeed, Mt 18:5-14, underlines the point of not being the cause of offence to others. In a special way, we should not be a hinderance to the return of the one who had gone astray, especially as he comes seeking reconciliation. In this context, we should appreciate the Jewish perspective that if we do not forgive, we in turn become the sinners, we become stumbling blocks for our own brothers. Consequently, we hinder peace in the community. Probably, this Jewish background of Jesus could have influenced his teaching on forgiveness: Each becomes personally responsible for the forgiveness in heaven, as we loose others here on earth.
Jesus then goes on to help Peter and each of us not to carry in memory a list of moments that our brothers have sinned against us. The hyperbolic answer Jesus gives to Peter’s question is not only a call not to keep a record of sins, but also an invitation to always forgive a brother whenever he offends us. If one were to keep registering the moments one was offended, how weary and draining would be these seventy times seven! This response also underlines the need for the offended to be open to forgive. For the “an unforgiving spirit is the evidence of stubborn pride, which is not the attitude with which to approach God for mercy.” This stubborn pride is underlined implicitly in our Constitutions when it exhorts us to seek humility because it helps us to admit our shortcomings and mistakes, ask pardon of our brothers and perform acts of kindness for them.
The word “brother” as used in the ancient Jewish culture, refers in the first place to a blood brother and then goes beyond that to include fellow tribesmen or countrymen. However, sometimes the same word was used to politely address strangers. In Ps 22:23(22), “my brethren” is clearly identical with “congregation,” i.e. a worshipping community. In this context, a brother is one with whom we share the same faith. We as Claretians, form a congregation and a community of disciples, as we celebrate the Eucharist and recite our prayers in a communal setting. It is in this setting that we must always have the words of Jesus resound in us that, before offering our sacrifice, we must reconcile if we have issues. We must remember that our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving is inclusive, and Paul goes ahead to teach that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices.
As we offer ourselves in our daily Eucharistic celebration, we also offer our reconciled bodies. Reconciliation is one of the signs of a mature community. The ongoing experience of being forgiven (when we do not even think we need it) is necessary to renew our flagging spirit and keep us in the infinite ocean of grace. Only mutual apology, healing, and forgiveness offer a sustainable future for humanity. Otherwise, we are controlled by the past, individually and corporately (collectively?). We all need to apologize, and we all need to forgive, or else, the project of our human life itself will surely lead to self-destruction.
As brothers in the congregation, we are also companions. The Hebrew word for brother also can mean a companion as in 2 Sam. 12:6. Being companions and members of the “cult community” therefore, we need to always be true to ourselves and correct each other. This is what essentially the Jewish prophets did. They tried to correct their brothers when things went wrong. Nevertheless, they did so prudently. For instance, Nathan confronted David with a parable in 2 Sam. 12. Sometimes the prophets were confrontational, approaching issues directly e.g. Amos 4. Consequently, it is important to look at the proposed way of fraternal correction.
Before looking at the theme of fraternal correction in the Bible, our Constitutions provide us with one of the steps to reconciliation. We should admit our shortcomings and mistakes, ask pardon of our brothers and perform acts of kindness for them, so that each of us may be in their midst as one who serves. This principle demands that one who has wronged his brother, MUST take the first step to reconciliation. This is part of the Gospel values Christ handed on to his followers. This passage of Mt 5:25-26 shows that it is often the offender who may suffer the consequences more than the offended. A number of members who have failed to reach reconciliation, end up forwarding their differences to their superiors. And when the latter, being a third party, is unable to resolve the issue, usually because none of the parties is willing to yield (give up his claims), shift grounds. Then the final option might be re-assignment, and the re-assignment of a member or both members may not often solve the problem.
True forgiveness is the solution, and this should lead to reconciliation. True forgiveness does not leave the offender feeling small and judged but liberated and loved. “When we human beings ‘admit’ to one another ‘the exact nature of our wrongs’, we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides, and even changes lives.” It is from this background that our communities become witnesses to Gospel values. Our willingness to tolerate and to forgive speaks volumes about our depth, maturity and understanding of the Christian vocation and consecrated life. Reconciled brothers form a peaceful and joyful community. Reconciliation is indeed one of the signs of a mature community.
3. The rÎb Confrontation
Having seen how the offender MUST take a step to reconciliation, it would not be out of place to examine the other option in case the offender does not do the above. The second mode of confrontation is from the ancient biblical teaching called rîb. This concept is not to be seen as outside the Jewish or Christian perspective, it is just an emphasis because of its speciality. The word rîb is from the Hebrew meaning to accuse. The accuser confronts the accused with an aim of restoring the injured relationship. It is not to indicate someone’s fault to justify oneself. It is not the diminution of the accused. The accuser tries to indicate how evil generates evil. It is a dialogue between the offended and the offender.
Therefore, the word “accusation” is not to be seen negatively. The accuser does not condemn his accused because in the rîb, judgement is not included. In the rîb, love of the accused is the foundation. When we accuse lovingly, it is easier to forgive. Love for the offender makes a better accusation. A loving confrontation, whereby pardon is offered even before the accused admits his mistake. The confrontation depends on the use of all possible means to convince the transgressor to admit his mistake responsibly and freely, so as to seek genuine reconciliation and peace. In fact, in the rîb confrontation, pardon is already given though one still confronts a brother.
“Loving confrontation is something which many find difficult to do. For the truly loving person the act of criticism or confrontation does not come easily. The dilemma can be resolved only by painstaking self-scrutiny, in which the lover examines stringently the worth of his or her ‘wisdom’ and the motives behind this need to assume leadership. ‘Do I really see things clearly or am I operating on murky assumptions?’ These are questions that those who truly love must continually ask themselves. This self-scrutiny, as objective as possible, is the essence of humility or meekness”.
It is, therefore, obligatory that the confrontation be a dialogue, between two members involved. This mode of confrontation absolutely excludes the involvement of the third party. In our case, often the third party is the superior. In our communities, rather than allowing grudges to dominate, piling our complaints for the canonical visit, it is better to try to help a brother to realize his mistake lovingly. In reality, we all have the grace to dominate the grudges.
In the rîb confrontation, the “accuser” tries by all possible means, using different communication skills available to help in the process of reconciliation. The prophets and other biblical authors were able to employ different modes of communication such as parables, metaphors, fables, etc. In our times, it is unfortunate that our approach is often inadequate. We often fail to read the signs of the times and fail to engage in a proper mature or fraternal communication. We may have to learn from prophet Nathan in his approach to David. Sometimes we have to overcome our fears and confront issues as they are. This depends on our capacity to read the signs of the times. The capacity to read the signs of the times is dependent on our daily contemplation on the Word and nearness to God, our daily self-examination, our genuineness and transparency.
Sometimes, in the rîb confrontation, just like any other confrontation, shame may arise on the part of the person being confronted. However, if the accused does not allow himself to feel this shame or humiliation, the process of awareness and growth is hindered from his part. One should not in fact feel guilty. When the experience of shame is accepted, awareness grows and also the capacity of improvement, and therefore constitute contributes to growth. Unlike guilt, shame can allow those who try to improve themselves, to re-establish themselves.
The only risk of this type of confrontation is when it is done without love. Where there is love, all our energy in reconciliation becomes the gift we can give. It is here that we too are consumed in the burning love for the other. We really become sacrifice by (in the act of) for-giving (per-donare) peace and love to our communities. Only in this environment of reconciled communities can our sacrifices (of the liturgy of hours, the Eucharist, our daily simple martyrdoms etc) be moments for-giving the world the true witnessing of the joy of the Gospel and thus making God known, loved and served by everyone. 
In conclusion, there is always a possibility of reconciliation in life. A mature and peaceful community is one which grows in the capacity to confront lovingly, and in the process, creates room for reconciliation. In fact, a reconciled community is a typical kingdom of God on earth. Brothers who can forgive each other manifest the basic nature of God as one who is “Merciful and Gracious, slow in anger” especially as seen in many Psalms (for example: Ps. 100:5; 106:1; 117:2 among others). “It is in forgiveness that Israel recognizes ‘divine’ activity par excellence and the ideal human activity in society and history.”
When we involve superiors to resolve the issues that we can resolve ourselves, the result may not be a genuine reconciliation, may not bring the healing which should be the result of reconciliation. It is better to slowly develop the “loving confrontation” of a brother with pardon (interiorly) already given. In fact, this is briefly the “apostolic charity” that is explained in CC 40. If the confronted brother knows that it is done out of love, he can easily accept the correction. If love is not manifested, reconciliation and the consequent healing, are far from being realized. God confronted Israel with the rîb mode often, and they realized their mistake.
Community reconciliation truly becomes a pastoral activity within the members are concerned for the salvation of their fellow brothers. This should be the greater concern for each brother so that we all realize the dream of the Congregation at large i.e. “to promote among ourselves a pastoral conversion as a major concern for the Community”.
For Personal and Community Reflection
Benner, J.F., “אָח” Ancient Hebrew Dictionary – Indexed by Strong’s Number, 0001-0500.
Bovati, P., Re-establishing Justice: Legal Terms, Concepts and Procedures in the Hebrew Bible, JSOT 105, Sheffield 1994.
Carofiglio, G., La manomissione delle parole, Milano 2015.
Charlesworth, J.H., “Forgiveness – Early Judaism”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York 1992, 2946-2948.
Easton, M.G., “Brother” Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Bibleworks 10).
Freedman, D.N. – Willoughby, B.E., “נשׂא”, TDOT, Vol. X, Grand Rapids, MI 1999, 24-40.
Hausmann, J., “סלח”, TDOT, Vol. X, Grand Rapids, MI 1999, 270-278.
Koehler, L. – Baumgartner, W. – al., “אָח”, HALOT, Leiden 2000.
Kselman, J.S., “Forgiveness”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York 1992, 2942-2946.
Luz, U., Matteo, Commentario Paideia, Nuovo Testamento, Vol. III, Brescia 2014.
Moshe David Herr, “Yoma” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol XXI, New York 2007, 381-382.
Onyait, A.M., The Rîb of God. A Pragmatic-Communicative Analysis of Amos 2:6-16, Rome 2019.
Peck, M.S., The Road less Travelled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, New York 1978.
Ringgren, H., “אָח”, TDOT, I, Grand Rapids, MI 1972,188-193.
Rohr, R., A Spring Within Us: A Book of Daily Meditations, CAC Publishing, 2016.
________, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps, Franciscan Media, 2011.
________, Near Occasions of Grace, Orbis Books, 1993.
Shogren, G.S., “Forgiveness – New Testament”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, New York 1992, 2948-2951.
Shirokov, P., “Meal Customs”, in Lexam Bible Dictionary, Logos 8.
Sprefico, A., “Peccato, Perdono, Alleanza (Es 32 – 34)”, Parola, Spirito e Vita, 29 (1994), 25-36.
Talbert, C.H., Matthew. Paideia Commentaries on the New Testament, Grand Rapids MI, 2010.
 J.S. Kselman, “Forgiveness”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 2942. Forgiveness is the wiping out of an offense from memory; it can be effected only by the one affronted. Once eradicated, the offense no longer conditions the relationship between the offender and the one affronted, and harmony is restored between the two.
 Cf. Jn 13:1.
 Lk 23:34.
 Cf. Gen 4:7.
 Mt 18:21-22
 This Jewish Perspective of forgiveness is a sharing by Rabbi Angela Buchdahl. It is shared on YouTube (Sep 23, 2018 – Uploaded by Central Synagogue).
 This Hebrew name, Yôm kippūr, is also written as Yôm ha-kippurîm, “Day of Atonement”, or briefly, kippurîm, “Atonement” as described in Lev 23:27-28 (Cf. Moshe David Herr, “Yoma” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, Vol XXI, 381-382). It is a special day set apart for reconciliation especially with God. The central purpose of forgiveness was for the benefit of the nation and humankind. The most important element is the recognition of one’s need to be forgiven and rebuild a proper relationship with God. (cf. J.H. Charlesworth, “Forgiveness – Early Judaism”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 2947). The Yôm kippūr is the holiest of holy days in the Jewish calendar.
 Cf. A. Sprefico, “Peccato, Perdono, Alleanza (Es 32 – 34)”, Parola, Spirito e Vita, 29 (1994), 30-31. «Il perdono di Dio non significa un colpo del spugna passato sul male ma chiama l’uomo a una decisione e una scelta» (God’s pardon does not mean a blow from the sponge on evil, but calls man to a decision and a choice). «Dio non si limita a perdonare, ma vuole mostrarsi come qualcuno che è possibile incontrare» (God doesn’t limit himself to pardon, but he wants to show himself as someone whom it is possible to meet).
 Cf. Mt 25:40-45
 Cf. Mt 18:18.
 CC 35.
 Cf. Mt 5:24. The Greek verb translated “reconcile” is διαλλάγηθι (diallagēthi) an imperative aorist passive from διαλλάσσω (diallassō), it means “exchanging enmity for amity and so be restored to normal relations” (Danker, Greek NT Lexicon). Reconciliation therefore means restoring an injured relationship.
 Forgiveness is a process because it includes the exhortation to approach the sinning brother, and then tell him his fault. At last, reconciliation comes “if he listens to you”. The best parable that shows how reconciliation is a process, is that of Lk. 15:17-24. The son prepares himself before meeting his father to reconcile. The word aphiēmi (to forgive) used in Mt. 18:18, frequently has the sense of the remission of a financial debt. However, the NT authors may have chosen the word to give an economic flavour to God’s pardon. Nevertheless, Jesus did evoke the picture of release from debt as a metaphor of forgiveness. (cf. G.S. Shogren, “Forgiveness – New Testament”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 2948). The Hebrew word often translated as “to forgive” (נשׂא – nāśā’) also means “to lift up, to bear”, etc. In forgiving, one can lift up the spirit of the offender, in forgiving one shows how he or she bears with the faults of his or her own brother or sister. In the OT this נשׂא has “been expanded to include the principle of forgiveness, and forgiveness is itself associated with the idea of lifting away or taking away guilt, sin, and punishment. Since the expression for forgiveness is frequently semantically the same us ‘bearing the burden of punishment,’ forgiveness is frequently understood us ‘to bear, carry away, settle, etc.’ (D.N. Freedman – B.E. Willoughby, “נשׂא”, TDOT, Vol. 10, 25). However, the Hebrew translation of the NT uses the verb סלח (sālāh) which means “to forgive”. This verb is sometimes used whereby “forgiveness manifests itself in concrete acts” e.g. whereby resolutions are concrete and practical (cf. J. Hausmann, “סלח”, TDOT, Vol. 10, 262). Therefore, as part of our practical invitation, our CMF Spiritual Directory invites us “to reach out our hand to those who have fallen for any reason” (Spiritual Directory, 125).
 Cf. Mt. 18:15-18.
 Cf. Mt. 18:10-14; and also C.H. Talbert, Matthew, 217-218. There are two subunits: (1) The first (18:5–9; cf. Mark 9:37; 9:42–48) urges disciples not to cause a little one to sin. (2) The second (18:10–14) warns against failing to restore a little one who has strayed.
 Cf. Mt 18:18.
 The Greek “ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά” is translated differently in different versions; some translate “seventy times seven” and others “seventy-seven times”.
 G.S. Shogren, “Forgiveness – New Testament”, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 2950.
 CC 41.
 Cf. Gen 19:7; 29:4.
 Cf. H. Ringgren, “אָח”, TDOT, I, 190-191. Also, a brother is seen as a protector (cf. J.F. Benner, “אָח”, Ancient Hebrew Dictionary).
 M.G. Easton, “Brother”, (Bibleworks 10).
 Cf. Heb 13:15.
 Cf. Rom 12:1.
 Cf. L. Koehler – W. Baumgartner – al., “אָח”, HALOT, 29.
 In fact, God will count the sin upon a member who fails to warn his companion, letting him perish in his wrong ways (cf. Ezk 3:18-19).
 CC 41. The constitutions go ahead to invite us to desire and ask to be corrected and receive corrections from our brothers gratefully. (cf. CC 54).
 Cf. Mt 5:25-26.
 Cf. Mt 5:44.
 A.M. Onyait, The Rib of God, 93.
 M.S. Peck, The Road less Travelled, 150-151.
 Cf. Gen 4:7.
 Cf. 2 Sam 12.
 Cf. G. Carofiglio, La manomissione, 70-71.
 cf. CC 40 §3.
 Cf. CC 40.3.
 Cf. Ex. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Neh. 9:17; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2.
 P. Bovati, Re-establishing Justice, 169.
 Cf. A.M. Onyait, The Rîb of God, 56.
 MS 70, §4.
 This question should help to approach our brother’s mistake without prejudices. The failures of a brother should be approached in a particular case without generalization that all brothers of such origin are prone to such mistakes.
 Peter Shirokov shares that “Sharing meals often expresses the universal Near Eastern value of hospitality (Gen 18:1-8; Heb. 3:12; Rom 1:13). Meals can affirm kinship, friendship and good will (Gen 31:33-54), acknowledge one’s status (1 Kgs 17:8-16, 2 Kgs 4:8-11), recognize a peaceful disposition and commitment to non-aggression (Gen 26:26-33; Josh 9:14). Depending on the context and occasion meal fellowship can convey an array of non-verbal messages relating to interpersonal relationships.” (P. Shirokov, “Meal Customs”).
 Cf. A.M. Onyait, The Rîb of God, 38. This term justice should also be understood in the biblical sense in relation to the elected people. Justice is seen in relation to God and to people such that the righteous person lives in a right and proper relationship with God that is like the corresponding relationship to his or her human community (cf. H. Dietrich Preuss, OT Theology, II, 167). We, therefore, must maintain not only good relationship with God but this should be corresponding in our community life. It gives no meaning celebrating a perfectly liturgical celebration with a wonderful homily, yet our practical life is filled with abusive language. This makes our religion worthless as says our Directory.
 Cf. U. Luz, Matteo, 1361.
Peace is the gift of the Risen Lord to the new creation redeemed by the lamb of God. How do we live God’s peace in the community and become peace-makers amidst the trials and tribulations of our times?
- Communities Configured by the Mission
- The Community "Oikos"
- The Community School of Disciples in Mission
- Prophetic and Contemplative Community
- Liturgical and Celebratory Community
- Walking Forth in the Spirit. Practicing Discernment in Personal Life and in Communities
- Leadership and Organization of the Community
- Conflict Transformation in Community
- Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Community
- Celebrating Life and Mission in Intercultural and Intergenerational Communities
- The Dream of Being Community
- The Paschal Mystery in Our Communities