Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ 22Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.
This week’s prayer practice comes from the lectionary readings. In Matthew, Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive someone and Jesus’ response is an astronomical number. So how many times should we forgive? An infinite number of times.
I have often wondered what brought up that topic for Peter. Did he have someone he needed to forgive, did one of the other disciples do something that irritated him, or might one of his family been causing him trouble? I know those are some of the reasons I often need to offer forgiveness and to receive forgiveness.
Hurting someone’s feelings is simply part of being human and living in relationships. We are not always pleasant to be around anymore than anyone else is and so unless we forgive each other of those hurt feelings we would be carrying a terrible burden that would eventually eat away at our souls.
Several years ago a man entered an Amish school house and killed all of the children before he shot himself. It would have been understandable for the families of those children to be angry and want revenge on the shooters family, but that is not what happened. Instead they surrounded the widow and her children in love and cared for her and her children in her grief the way they cared for their own grief. A spokesperson for the Amish community said the best way to remember the lives of the children lost was to offer forgiveness and compassion to the shooters wife and child and if the shooter had survived they would have told him they forgave him. I have known Amish families and I wasn’t surprised by their actions but still it must have been very hard to offer that kind of loving forgiveness. You see I have carried around some anger for a long time for something someone did to my mother and I need to let forgive the person. It is time to simply release that anger and offer my forgiveness. In his book Spiritual Gems of Islam Imam Jamal Rahman offers a meditation practice that guides us in releasing our anger and offering forgiveness even when the person is no longer with us by reaching out to the soul of the person to be forgiven. Briefly here are the steps to follow:
- Begin in a state of meditation or stillness, let yourself feel safe and loved When you are ready call to the soul the person you wish to address
- Give yourself permission to experience your feelings this person evokes in you. Notice in your body where those feelings are located. Feel compassion and mercy for yourself and slowly embrace those feelings
- When you are ready allow the feelings of mercy and compassion as a bridge to the persons soul and tell why you are forgiving them.
- Offer a prayer in the presence of the person’s soul that expresses your needs in relation to the person. State your heartfelt desire in prayer. End the prayer with whatever is in your highest interest, is manifesting for you now.
- As you continue to meditate tell the person’s soul that they have been part of your life but that it is now time to let them go, with love and forgiveness. Jamal recommends a ritual of cutting cords to release your attachment to the person.
- Listen for the soul of the other person expressing gratitude for this work of healing. Offer to release the person’s soul and envision his/her soul being embraced by the Holy Spirit.
- As you end of your meditation, give yourself permission to be loved by the Spirit and slowly return to awareness.
The above is a brief introduction to the prayer practice but it follows all of the steps. However, if you are interested in furthering your understanding of this beautiful Sufi meditation I strongly recommend reading Imam Rahman’s book.
Peace to you all, and May your heart open like a flower in forgiving love for the unlovable and the lovable alike.
Ruth Jewell, ©September 9, 2014
 Rahman, Imam Jamal, Spirituality of Islam, Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT, 2013, pgs. 148-150.