Sunday, September 27, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Saturday, September 12, 2020
The theme for today’s Liturgy, echoed in our readings and prayers, is something so important that the Church knows we need to hear it over and over again: forgive, forgive, forgive! I think this repetitive emphasis comes from the fact that extending mercy and an olive branch to someone who has hurt us is probably one of the most difficult things for a person to do. And the deeper the wound, the harder it is to forgive. But it’s vital for us to realize as humans and as Christians that we should forgive, we need to forgive and we can forgive.
First, we should forgive because if we don’t we are actually rejecting God’s mercy for ourselves. I honestly think that most of us do not keep in mind the reality of this pre-condition for our own forgiveness which Jesus clearly laid out before us. He says it several times throughout the Gospels and in various ways. Today he puts it like this: “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.” Referring back to the parable in today’s Gospel what Jesus is saying is that, we will receive only the amount of mercy and forgiveness that we ourselves give out. This is just another way of expressing what the great St. Augustine called the “terrifying petition” of the Our Father, in which we ask God to only forgive us to the extent to which we ourselves forgive others. So, you see, for our own good, we should forgive.
Secondly, we need to forgive otherwise we will destroy ourselves. Can you imagine a world or better yet a family in which everyone refuses to forgive? How cold, callous and cruel it would be to have to live out our days in such an environment. There would be no meaningful expression of love. No inner serenity. No laughter or contentment. Actually, that’s a pretty good description of Hell, isn’t it? To refuse to forgive is to condemn ourselves to a slow and emotionally painful death by allowing past hurts to remain like radioactive material within us, gradually poisoning us from the inside out. We need to forgive is we want to live life to the fullest both here and hereafter.
Forgiveness might seem nearly impossible for many of us to accomplish. But we have to remember that to forgive is not to condone a terrible thing that someone has done. It does not mean, “What you did to me was OK, let’s just forget about it.” No, forgiveness means that although we recognize the damage done, we freely choose to move beyond it. We intentionally refuse to take revenge because we know that this will in reality make us worse off and damage us further. The anger, growing resentment and seeds of hatred that accompany the decision to get even will become a spiritual cancer in our lives. We become entrapped in a toxic attitude that reaches out and poisons all our relationships in one way or another.
Lastly, we can forgive because Jesus gives us the power to do so. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is like a great river of forgiveness that keeps flowing through all centuries and generations until the end of time. Its supernatural power is made available to us especially at every Eucharist. When we discover the need to forgive someone and find it hard to do so, we can ask Christ in prayer to pour out this water upon us and soften the hardness of our hearts. This persistence in prayer can transform us from bit by bit from being a victim into being a healer. It might be very hard to do at first, but if we humbly persevere God will enlighten us to see the perpetrator as someone who has also been hurt and is in need of healing.
Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist that we celebrate, worship and receive can empower us to become healers and peacemakers from the inside out. Through our frequent and faithful communion with him, he will show us how to love as he loves. He will enable us to make our forgiving an act of genuine mercy toward the offender. Christ, living in us, will give us the strength to overcome negative attitudes of retaliation and to become a person of compassion because we ourselves want mercy from God. So, you see, we should forgive. We need to forgive. And we can forgive because with God all things are possible.