A Seasonal Contemplation
The Transubstantiation of Forgiveness – a seasonal thought
by Rev. Michaël Merle
The four week season of Epiphany provides us with a very significant reading on the Third Sunday of Epiphany: The Wedding at Cana (John 2:1-11). The change of water into wine through the power of the Christ being reflects the extraordinary process of the change of water in the berry of the grapevine into sweet juice under the influence of the sun. This change speaks to us of a movement in the very substance of the grape (of water into vine-juice). The Gospel Reading highlights an interesting aspect in this picture of transubstantiation - there is an enigmatic interchange between mother and son, Mary and Jesus. When she points out that they have no more wine, Jesus literally asks her, "What is that to me and to you, woman?" This question echoes an old Hebrew saying: "What is to me and to you?" which expresses the question: What have you to do with me? -or- What have you to do with the action of my life? -or- What part do you have to play in my destiny?
This question brings into focus the part each of us has to play in the lives of others and the part they have to play in ours. An essential aspect of Christianity is the power of forgiveness. In this act of forgiving the other we do not remove their injury nor do we take away the responsibility they carry but we do lighten the burden and free them to develop further (even if they must still account for their words or actions later in their life). The power of forgiveness changes the substance of what lives between us. The part we play in the destiny of another and the part they play in ours is to support the evolving, becoming human being.
If we consider our recent history, it can reveal a gloomy picture: an ongoing series of conflicts, hatred, violence and systematic destruction and denigration. The result of this is well described as follows "... the human emotional landscape has become littered with angry, bitter and vengeful feelings. The modern justice system, preoccupied as it is with finding and proving guilt, does little to remedy this tragic situation. However, many individuals and groups are seeking ways to break the never-ending cycle of recrimination. When faced with the question of what we can do to change and improve the world, one of the most radical and challenging answers is to learn to begin forgiving others for what they have done to us."
The power of this deeply Christian act can be so easily overlooked despite the plea in the Lord's Prayer: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". In a short seasonal thought such as this it is not possible to unpack the depths of such an idea and of the truly healing act of forgiveness for all concerned. The idea that "forgiveness does not change the past but does enlarge the future" is contained in the second chapter of John and is held within the truly Christian picture of transubstantiation and evolution. In this season between Epiphany and Passiontide we can carry this thought on forgiveness as a bridge from the season of the revelation of the power of the Christ to the season where the sickness of humanity which is waiting for the healing only Christ can bring is confronted and meditated.
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