Thursday, August 13, 2015

“Pain that is not transformed will be transmitted”

"He passed over his fall, and appointed him first of the Apostles; wherefore He said: ' 'Simon, Simon,' etc. (in Ps. cxxix. 2). God allowed him to fall, because He meant to make him ruler over the whole world, that, remembering his own fall, he might forgive those who should slip in the future. And that what I have said is no guess, listen to Christ Himself saying: 'Simon, Simon, etc.'" --Saint John Chrysostom: (349 – 407: Archbishop of Constantinople who was known for his preaching and public speaking)

Gospel Text: (MT 18:21–19:1)
Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed,
and went to their master and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

When Jesus finished these words, he left Galilee
and went to the district of Judea across the Jordan.

One of the most difficult challenges in life is forgiveness. In fact, I might argue that unforgiveness is the cause of so much pain in our world, in our towns, in our families and in our hearts. We can be in such bondage to our hurts that we fail to see exactly how toxic they really are as we go along our days.

Peter approaches Jesus with a very generous offer. It appears to go to the widest boundaries of the time—finite, and Jesus responds with not seven times but seventy-seven times—infinite.

This servant owes so much to his master and as he begs for mercy by promising to repay, the reader understands the absolute impossibility of this. He is totally at the mercy of his master for his life and that of his family. Yet, we read that in an instant, he is forgiven—done, forgotten, free. It is that simple with God—mercy flows freely to those who ask. Following this encounter, it is so easy to judge this servant’s behavior as deplorable in the context of the mercy extended to him. Is he that disconnected from the encounter to completely forget to be merciful to others? Are we?

Father Eamon Tobin in his book, “How to Forgive Yourself and Others”, states that forgiveness is largely an act of the will and not a matter of feelings. This makes sense in line with Jesus’ words on forgiving from the heart. Father Tobin goes on to explain that forgiveness:

• is a process where we seek to rid our mind and heart from hurt and resentments because of what someone did to us;

• it is spiritual surgery that we perform on ourselves with God’s grace so as to free ourselves from the venom we feel;

• is a gift we give ourselves so we do not remain stuck in the past and in our pain. When we are able to forgive, we can move from being a victim.

Forgiveness is not a surrender to our right to justice; we do not necessarily want to forget—some hurts teach us. It also doesn’t mean that we never have negative feelings towards our offender. Forgiveness is a decision, like love, an act of will!

The only response to the kind of mercy shown the servant by the master is to receive it so as to be open to bring that same mercy to others. We are asked to move beyond vengeance and move towards reconciliation in humble willingness. We never fully experience one without the other; God’s mercy towards us as we go and do the same from the heart. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12).

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