In the time of persecutions, some Christians thought those who abandoned the Church could never be forgiven. But Dionysius says that we should follow Christ’s example, welcoming the penitent with open arms.
But now we’re doing the opposite. Christ, the Good Shepherd, goes out looking for one who strays, and calls him back when he runs away, and carefully takes him up on his shoulders when he finds him. On the other hand, we harshly reject someone who strays even when he comes to us.
Let us not be so miserly, and let us not stab ourselves with our own sword. When people decide either to do evil or to do good to others, they don’t just carry out their will on those others. As they attach themselves to evil or to good, they will themselves be possessed either by divine virtues or by unbridled passions.
The ones who attach themselves to good will become the followers and companions of the good angels; both in this world and the next, they will enjoy perfect peace and freedom from all ills, and the most blessed destinies to all eternity, and the fellowship of God forever in the highest good.
But the ones who follow evil will fall away at once from the peace of God and from peace with themselves. In this world and the next they will stay with the spirits of bloodguilt.
So let us not turn away those who want to return in penitence, but let us receive them gladly, and count them again among the steadfast, and make up again what they lack. –St. Dionysius of Alexandria, On the Reception of the Lapsed to Penitence
IN GOD’S PRESENCE, CONSIDER . . .
What do I think of as really unforgivable?
Can I train myself to forgive it?
Father, you call all your rebellious children to come back and be healed. Let me always respond to your call, and never give myself to any other power.
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