To all the brothers and sisters of the Oases – Realities of
Koinonia John the Baptist

Christ is risen!

Dear sister, dear brother,

In one word, what is the fundamental gift that Jesus has given you? The spontaneous and theologically correct response is salvation. But with the desire to respond in a more personal and profound way, we can refer to Jesus’ programatic discourse on His salvific ministry. In fulfilling the text from the prophet Isaiah, Jesus proclaims freedom to prisoners and liberty to the oppressed (cfr. Lk 4:18-19).

The Greek term at the root of both freedom and liberty is àfesis. It is found many times in the Bible, but it isn’t always rendered with the concept of ‘freedom’ or ‘liberty’. In most cases, it gets translated as ‘pardon’ or ‘forgiveness’. This is to demonstrate the correspondence between forgiveness and evangelical freedom: Jesus sets us free through the forgiveness of sin. Evangelical freedom is an interior condition which allows us to adhere to God’s project and His will. When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, God makes it clear to the Pharaoh, through Moses, to let His people leave, also explaining for what purpose: “so that they may serve me!” (Ex 8:1). So, ‘free’ means ‘free to serve the Lord’, adhering to the project that He has for us, and therefore to love Him!

Returning to the initial question, divine forgiveness is the starting point for the project of salvation. From forgiveness springs forth freedom, and freedom is the prerequisite for love. It is beautiful to see how the Lord, prompted by our infidelity, ‘creates’ forgiveness in order to establish and restore the childhood relationship with His creation.

What are the preconditions to be able to receive the Lord’s forgiveness? It’s simple: we need to recognise that we are in need of forgiveness and we have to ask for it! These two conditions in themselves are given already as a gift of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, it’s important for the Christian to dedicate a period of time for introspection, to look inside themselves and allow themselves to be guided and enlightened by the Spirit in this act of seeking awareness.

So there is a vertical dimension to forgiveness (between God and us), but it is also horizontal, in our relationship with others. Each of us is called to become a channel of forgiveness, to undo chains of resentment, bitterness and even hate. How could we forget Jesus’ reply to Peter? He doesn’t tell you to forgive seven times, but to pardon your brother or sister “seventy times seven” (cfr. Mt 18:22).

Dear friends, even in the community environment, unfortunately we aren’t short of testimonies of closure, of resentment and of bitterness in relationships between brothers and sisters. This applies also to people of virtue, people that are faithful to prayer and to community commitments. However, they don’t grow in forgiveness, that characteristic proper to the Christian. So let’s make the most of Lent, this time of grace, to allow ourselves to heal and to be set free from sin by the Lord. Let us be convicted by all that gets in the way of our relationship with Him, and which keeps us more or less prisoners, and closed within ourselves. Let’s allow ourselves to be helped in this through abstinence, fasting, and going without, but above all through a rediscovered desire to spend time and stay in the presence of Jesus. Let’s renew our friendship with Him through prayer, bearing in mind that the fast pleasing to the Lord is “to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke [and] to let the oppressed go free” (Is 58:6). When we forgive, we liberate our heart as well as that of our brother or sister. We open graves that conceal deteriorating relationships and allow them to rise again. We participate in mercy, that divine attribute which best expresses the heart of God. We fulfil Jesus’ command, to “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Lk 6:36). Forgiving is the best way to express our gratitude for the forgiveness we have received.

Hoping that this will be a fruitful Lenten season for you, for your family, and for the whole Koinonia, I wish you a joyful Easter of freedom in the Risen Lord.

Even Sapir, 16th February 2023

Fr. Giuseppe De Nardi
Pastor General