I Am What I Am
BY CARLOS RODRIGUEZ | February 11, 2019
We are taught from a young age about the act of forgiveness and how we should follow the teachings of the gospel in order to live a life dedicated to the faith of Christianity. Growing up, I too was taught about forgiveness and I think I interpreted that act as a humble deed that can bring us self-gratification. Recently, however, I have struggled with the idea of forgiveness and how we can truly dedicate ourselves to a teaching that is often simplified for the sake of understanding or practicing our faith.
I retreated to the serene haven of the Texas hill-country a couple of weeks ago along with the many mid-west Jesuit volunteers. It gave me time to reflect while being disconnected from the world of technology, social media, and the everyday distractions of a daily routine. It gave me time to think about what I once considered a simple act: forgiveness.
We must not just believe in forgiveness for the sake of blindly following the gospel. In yesterday’s second reading, Paul is reminiscent of the gospel preached unto us the way it was received by him. He states that we will be saved unless we believe the gospel in vain. He reiterates how Christ died for our sins, and in that way, reminds us about the idea of forgiveness.
Later, Paul says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective.” I am what I am. His grace to me has not been ineffective. We can ask God for the grace to forgive others and it allows us to be who we really are. I want to be able to forgive those who violate human rights, commit sex offenses against others, or perform heinous war crimes but do not think I am ready. I am still on this journey of understanding how to forgive. I know that this process of discernment and being critical of what I once considered a simple act will highlight the grace I was granted by God.
- How can we forgive those who have truly caused so much harm, pain, or suffering?
- How can we forgive those who commit grave sins against our bodies?
- How can we forgive those who willingly undertake sins that trespass against humanity?
Carlos Rodriguez is a graduate of Seattle University where he earned a B.A. in Public Affairs. As the former Student Body President, he has used his position to talk about issues related to immigration, affordable housing, and homelessness. He has been vocal about his status as an Undocumented immigrant in hopes of bringing awareness to the complexity of immigration in the United States. Carlos is known for wearing a scarlet “U” signifying how an Undocumented status, which has been largely stigmatized in the U.S., is branded onto the lives of many Undocumented immigrants. Currently, he is a Jesuit Volunteer serving as an Anti-Trafficking and Immigration Specialist.
At some level of thought, we can forgive them … maybe by asking God to forgive them … for they ‘know not what they do’ and have not thought through the horrible ramifications of their wrongful deeds. BUT … we can NEVER forget the sins against humanity that have been committed, nor forget the harm they have done. Neither can we stop working to change hearts and minds to love one another or to change political systems that tolerate or promote such acts of violence, bigotry and hate against humankind.
I want and need to be forgiven. My ability to receive depends on my openness to forgive. What allows that openness to grow is my recognition of my helplessness,’ being between a rock and a hard place’. When I go and try to meditate or do centering prayer and I cant get quiet, it humbles me. It also scares me when I am told I have to share Christs cross, die with him. I also try to remember that Jesus was not as much paying for my sins as teaching my how to love. Learning to love is a transformation. Do you get Fr Richard Rohr’s Meditations at CAC.org. They help me.
I am much older than you are Carlos, also an immigrant to this country but unlike you, I had the blessing of being welcomed when I arrived from Cuba back in 1961. I ask myself the same questions you posted at the end of your article and I’m still struggling with them. I wish you the best and know that through prayer and reflection, you (and I) will find the answers and be able to forgive those who do so much harm. Blessings!
Forgiveness empowers – the forgiver and the forgiven. Praise the Lord.