Sunday, 11 September 2011
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury
on Mt 18:21-35; Ecc 27:30-28:7
Forgiveness is one of the hallmarks of our Christian religion. Not only that we can receive forgiveness from God, but that we must grant it to others too. And we are constantly confronted by the NEED to forgive people: because we all have people sin against us. In big things and in little things. From injustice in the workplace, or some sort of abuse in a friendship or marriage, down to the daily little slights we receive from others, like people pushing in front of us in the checkout line at the supermarket.
And we know that we can allow these things to build up, to make us bitter, to nurse these grievances until all that is left in our heart is a nasty festering mess of hatred. All because of what OTHER people have done to us, not because we've gone out to do wrong to others. And often it doesn't seem fair. After all, sometimes we don't want to forgive, what we want is JUSTICE.
We are reminded in today’s parable that if we demand justice from others, then we can only expect justice ourselves. And because we, ourselves, have sinned against GOD, if it is justice we demand, then the justice we will receive, is that we will be condemned and “handed over to the torturers”(Mt 18:34). Because God does not give us justice, He gives us mercy.
Mercy isn’t always easy. Most of us go through some time in our lives when we find it almost impossible to forgive. Sometimes every emotion in our heart, and every bit of logic in our head, screams out at us saying that this person does not deserve our forgiveness.
And the truth is that they don't deserve our forgiveness. But we also do not deserve the forgiveness that our heavenly Father gives us. And if we accept forgiveness from Him, how can we refuse to give it others? As we will soon pray in the Our Father: the forgiveness we ask for from God, depends on us forgiving the trespasses of those who trespass against us. God puts forgiveness before us as a moral obligation: We must forgive, or else we will not be forgiven.
But we know that must also forgive for our OWN sakes, because it is the only way to heal the bitterness that can otherwise possess our hearts. Even though mercy is difficult, not having mercy brings us even more difficulty, it leaves us with a wound in our heart that can eventually destroy us.
When forgiveness is especially hard, we’d do well to remember that it wasn’t easy for Christ either -it led Him to the Cross.
Sometimes, when forgiveness is particularly difficult, and it only comes with TIME, it has to be the result of a long SLOW process, of a long way of the cross.
Sometimes we need to carry our injuries as part of our own Cross, in union with Our Lord, as we walk the way of the Cross, until we are able to join Him in forgiving, just as He forgave His executioners from the Cross.
With the GRACE that comes to us from the Cross, and the EXAMPLE of Jesus on the Cross, we CAN find the strength to forgive others.
There is no peace except in the cross, no peace except in forgiveness. So let us think today of those times when we have failed to forgive others, and ask the Lord for the help and grace to be able to forgive as generously as He has forgiven us.