Monday and Tuesday of last week, my husband and I attended a Lenten Mission at St. Andrew's on Paulina and Addison. The mission speaker was Dr. Jerry Galipeau who is the Associate Publisher at World Library Publications which is the music and liturgy division of J. S. Paluch Company.
It's difficult to do justice to Dr. Galipeau's talk. He is a gifted speaker who intertwines the faith experience with the every day life experiences that we all have. But I got more out of it then I ever expected!
One of the talks involved the Eucharistic Table as the table of reconciliation. I never viewed going to Communion as a place of forgiveness, but now I see it in a whole new light.
In John 21 Jesus appears to his disciples after the resurrection and sends them out to fish. He then invites them to have breakfast on the beach around a charcoal fire. The reading has a lot of Last Supper undertones. After they have eaten, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him three times which brings to mind Peter's earlier denial of Jesus in John 18.
Dr. Galipeau told us that if we believe that God forgives us and loves us then that forgiveness and love extends to those who have hurt us - whether we like it or not. There's always a catch isn't there?
Dr. Galipeau invited us all to stand at the altar and to imagine that the person who has hurt us stands there as well. He asked us to picture the beach and the charcoal fire. He then asked that we approach the altar, pray and perhaps kiss the altar, as the priest does.
When Dr. Galipeau first explained all this, the first person I always think of when forgiveness is mentioned is my mother. And as I pictured all of us standing around the fire, I of course, I want to push her in! It was hard for me to grasp that the same God who extends his love and forgiveness to me would extend it to my mother. Dr. Galipeau explained that it has nothing to do with the other person's wanting to be forgiven or even acknowledging their offense. It has to do with our accepting God's love and forgiveness to all of us. Period.
Over the years, I have had experiences of forgiveness concerning my mother but I always wondered if I truly could forgive her completely. Something happened to me at that altar. I approached it, put my hands on it and let the Spirit take over. I said no prayer. I stayed a few minutes and then kissed the altar and went to sit down. The tears started to well up. I got it. I understood. It was extraordinary!
Thank you Dr. Galipeau and as you said, "Thank God we are Catholic!"